“Epworth Church is one step closer to becoming a city landmark just as the historical church is set to be redeveloped — possibly into apartments.
“The city’s Commission on Chicago Landmarks voted Thursday to give Epworth Church preliminary landmark status, which would give the church campus demolition protections after an earlier effort to raze its buildings.
“The 131-year-old Epworth Church at 5253 N. Kenmore Ave. held its last church services in early May before a prospective new owner applied for a demolition permit for the church campus’ two buildings.
“The developer pulled the demolition request after blowback from neighbors and a pledge from Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) to seek landmark protections for the church.
“Osterman said any development plan that comes forward will be done in conformity with the city’s landmark protections. He said he will work to include community accessible space in the redevelopment plans.
“Epworth has been an anchor in our community,” Osterman said at the meeting. “It’s very important we keep the building preserved.”
“The church has been added to the National Register of Historic Places and was given ‘orange-rated’ status under the city’s historic survey. That status prompted a 90-day delay and review of the demolition permit, though it was ultimately withdrawn before the timeline was up.
“Edgewater residents and preservationists Carla Bruni helped the church earn its federal historic status. The church campus, set back from the street with its ornate limestone façade, provides greenery and human scale in a dense part of Edgewater neighbored by high rises on nearby Sheridan Road.
“Epworth is worthy of landmark status because of its exemplary architect, the notoriety of its architects and its historical significance as an example of Edgewater’s earliest days, according to the city’s landmark report. (Ward, Block Club Chicago, 7/8/22)
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). A petition and periodic news articles maintained wider awareness of the threats to Epworth Church. 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.
Despite the loss of many interior features due to the demolition sale, Preservation Chicago strongly supports the Chicago Landmark Designation of Epworth United Methodist Church and will continue to strongly support the neighborhood throughout this process.
During the demolition sale, neighbors and Preservation Chicago monitored the Epworth Church closely as any exterior features and fixtures would be protected by a future Chicago Landmark Designation. The Alderman’s office and City of Chicago Landmarks Division was updated throughout the process.
Preservation Chicago notified the demolition sale company that it would be improper to sell any fixed objects and elements visible from on the exterior, especially the stained glass windows from legendary Chicago artists Healy and Millet. While these large windows appear to be intact, six significant rose windows in the tower appear to have been sold and removed. Ward Miller quickly contacted the St. Louis based architectural salvage company responsible and negotiated an agreement to return them to the building in the event that it is landmarked and restored. We are optimistic that they will be restored as part of the reuse of the building.
Preservation Chicago would like to see these buildings and facades remain visible from the street and unobstructed by potential new construction. The views of the Parish House/Community Building must remain visible. The existing green space and garden is an essential component of the historic property and is not a vacant lot ripe for development.