WIN: Major Reversal for Epworth Church as Demolition Permit is Hastily Withdrawn and Landmark Process Begins

Epworth United Methodist Church, 1890, designed by architect Frederick Townsend, with additions by Fred J. Thielbar of the architectural firm of Theilbar & Fugard, 5253 N. Kenmore Ave. Photo credit: Ward Miller / Preservation Chicago
Epworth United Methodist Church, 1890, designed by architect Frederick Townsend, with additions by Fred J. Thielbar of the architectural firm of Theilbar & Fugard, 5253 N. Kenmore Ave. Photo credit: Ward Miller / Preservation Chicago
Detail of the the large Healy and Millet stained glass window at Epworth Church. Epworth United Methodist Church, 1890, Frederick Townsend, 5253 N. Kenmore Ave. Photo credit: Ward Miller / Preservation Chicago
Landmark Epworth Church Petition. Image Credit: Edgewater Historical Society

“The buyer of Edgewater’s Epworth Church has withdrawn a demolition permit application for the historical church campus slated for redevelopment.

“The owner applied for a demolition permit for the 130-year-old church at 5253 N. Kenmore Ave. last week, angering some neighbors and preservationists.

“The news of the demolition request came as Epworth was hosting an estate sale and planning for its last services at the church. Pastor Max Kuecker said the congregation had to leave the building this week and its new owner was planning a condo development.

“But after Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) said he would seek landmark status for Epworth Church, the demolition permit was rescinded, the alderman announced. The permit request was withdrawn Tuesday, city records show.

“‘I am deeply committed to preserving the historic Epworth Church building,’ Osterman said on Facebook. ‘I am working with the city of Chicago’s Commission on Chicago Landmarks to landmark Epworth and ensure it will not be demolished.’

“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. For decades, the church has also housed a homeless shelter from Uptown organization Cornerstone Community Outreach.

“Epworth’s orange-rated status also meant any demolition permit requests were subject to a 90-day delay for city officials to determine if tearing down the structure was appropriate.

“Neighbors and preservationists have sought to landmark the building as its future became uncertain. That campaign officially got the support of Osterman last week.

“The demolition request ‘flies in the face of what the community wants,’ Osterman said.” (Ward, Block Club Chicago, 5/19/22)

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 estate 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.

Read the full story at Block Club Chicago

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

Epworth United Methodist Church Demolition Sale Listing

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