The Chicago Landmarks Commission has initiated a preliminary recommendation to afford landmark status to the Monumental Baptist Church, located at 729 E Oakwood Boulevard in Grand Boulevard. The historic church was established in 1899 by architects Patton, Fisher, and Miller. In order to be considered for landmark status, a structure must meet a number of established criteria. The Monumental Baptists Church has many of the available criteria including value as an example of a city, state, or national heritage, relationship to a significant person, exemplary architecture, and a few other notable criteria including a distinctive visual feature.
The original congregation of the structure was that of the old University of Chicago campus in Bronzeville. The neighborhood gradually shifted demographics as a result of the Great Migration, leading to an acquisition by another baptist congregation in 1934. Upon this acquisition, the church was rechristened as the Monumental Baptist Church.
As for the church itself, the structure’s architecture exemplifies the Romanesque Revival style, including a large central tower surrounded by gables facing out in all four cardinal directions. Rounded archways and rustic stonework are heavily featured in the building’s exterior.
As the structure remains almost entirely intact, it will also meet the Integrity Criterion which honors longevity of structural soundness. Thus far, all changes to the building have been limited to replacement and maintenance. The landmarking will protect all exterior elevations of the building, including rooflines, ensuring any future work is in line with existing features.
At this time, the building is conditionally saved from demolition or major alteration. The recommendation will need final approval from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks as well as a vote from the Chicago City Council prior to being issued official landmark status.
During the meeting in which the approval was issued, Commissioner Cox inquired if the parish has investigated acquiring the adjacent lots and how the site might be better used. The leader of the current parish, Pastor Lee responded by stating that while inquiries have been made, the church’s priority is to restore the church building itself.
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