If not for the preservation advocacy effort, Epworth Church would have been demolished.
Preservation Chicago has been working to find good preservation outcome for Epworth United Methodist Church for over two years with congregants, neighbors, the Edgewater Historical Society, and Ald. Harry Osterman (48th). Concern grew as the congregation shrank and it became increasing clear that the top priority of ownership was to maximize sale price. When Epworth was first listed for sale, Preservation Chicago found a Chicago-based foundation interested in purchasing the complex, conducting a full renovation, and maintaining a religious and homeless shelter use. The purchase offer was dismissed and the seller’s priorities became more transparent.
The announcement of the closing of Epworth and a “demolition sale” sounded the alarm bells. Despite assurances from the developer that demolition was not being considered, the receipt of the demolition permit application by the City of Chicago confirmed the true intentions of the developer.
Due to extensive neighborhood advocacy, coordination and preparation, a rapid response took the developer by surprise and forced a withdrawal of the demolition permit application. Additionally, when the true intentions of the developer ran counter to previous verbal assurances, the formal Landmark designation process was accelerated.
“The 132-year-old Epworth Church, once slated to be demolished, is one step away from becoming a city landmark and being converted into affordable housing. The city’s Commission on Chicago Landmarks voted Thursday to approve a final landmark recommendation for the stone church at 5253 N. Kenmore Ave. The landmark proposal now goes for a vote before the City Council’s Committee on Zoning and then the full City Council.
“Epworth Church’s future was uncertain after the congregation held its final services in spring 2022. After a demolition scare, the landmarking process was started last year to preserve the church.
“Epworth’s owner said they plan to convert the church and a community building into 40-45 affordable apartments. The apartments would include a mix of studios and one-bedrooms, said Mike Jones, executive director of Church Properties Reimagined.
“Church Properties Reimagined leaders said they agreed to the landmark status for the property.
“The city’s review of Epworth Church showed the structure met four of seven criteria of a historic structure, enough to be classified as a landmark. That includes its heritage in the Edgewater neighborhood and its architectural significance, officials said.
“The church building was completed in 1891, with noted architect Frederick B. Townsend donating his services, according to the Edgewater Historical Society. In the 1930s, the building was expanded and a community house added to accommodate a growing congregation.
“The demolition request drew condemnation from neighbors. It also started the landmarking process.
“Because the church was rated “orange” in the city’s historical survey, any requests to demolish the structure automatically trigger a 90-day period to review the building’s historical significance.
“Church Properties Reimagined originally did not agree to the landmarking process, which required a public hearing, city officials said. That hearing was held March 30, when the owners said they would not object to the landmarking if it meant not having to preserve the windows and doors.” (Ward, Block Club Chicago, 4/14/23)
- Edgewater’s Epworth Church Nears Landmark Status As Owner Plans To Turn It Into Affordable Apartments; The 132-year-old Epworth Church and community building will be converted into 40-45 affordable apartments, its owners said, Joe Ward, Block Club Chicago, 4/14/23
- Epworth Church In Edgewater Moves Closer To Landmark Status, Ian Achong, Chicago YIMBY, 4/17/23
- Final landmark approved for Epworth Church; A developer has been eyeing the site for apartments, Lukas Kugler, Urbanize Chicago, 4/15/23
- Edgewater’s Epworth Church Gets Preliminary Landmark Status As Developer Seeks To Turn Church Into Apartments; With landmark status, the 131-year-old church building would be saved as it is set to be sold to a developer and converted into a residential use, Joe Ward, Block Club Chicago, 7/8/22
- Owner Of Edgewater’s Epworth Church Withdraws Demolition Permit As Landmark Process Moves Forward; The buyer of the 130-year-old church sought a demolition permit for a condo development. Those plans have changed after Ald. Harry Osterman endorsed landmark status for the church, Joe Ward, Block Club Chicago, 5/19/22
- Osterman Wants To Landmark Epworth Church After Developer Moves To Demo 130-Year-Old Building; A developer is seeking to demolish the Epworth Church that dates back to the early days of Edgewater, but preservationists hope to save it, Joe Ward, Block Club Chicago, 5/16/22
- 130-Year-Old Edgewater Church Hosting Final Service Sunday After Being Sold, Leaving Building’s Future Unclear; Neighbors have been told Epworth United Methodist Church at Kenmore and Berwyn could be demolished, but Ald. Harry Osterman said he believes the owner will reuse the building, Joe Ward, Block Club Chicago, 5/13/22
- Historic Edgewater church for sale; neighbors worry about what will come next; Unable to afford upkeep, Epworth United Methodist is looking for a new owner for its 130-year-old building, which also is home to a homeless shelter, Mark Brown, Chicago Sun-Times, 8/20/21
- Petition to Landmark Epworth Church