Preliminary Landmark Status Approved for Epworth Church Building in Edgewater

Image of main auditorium by Matt Gilbert

The Commission on Chicago Landmarks has issued preliminary landmark recommendations for Epworth United Methodist Church at 5253 N Kenmore Avenue in Edgewater.

Epworth Church Building via Commission on Chicago Landmarks

The church was constructed in 1891 by architect Frederick B Townsend. The preliminary designation includes the addition of a community house in 1931 by architects Thielbar and Fugard. The church has no congregation and the property is currently being offered for sale.

Exterior image of 1930’s addition by Matt Gilbert

The Epworth Church building meets Criterion 1 for heritage and is a part of Edgewater’s history standing as a suburban scale church that was common in Victorian-era Chicagoans. John Cochran, the developer of Edgewater, granted the land and the design was donated by architect Frederick B Townsend.

Exterior image of main church building by Matt Gilbert

Criterion 4 is also met due to its exemplary architecture. This is a rare example of fieldstone architecture, and the building is comprised of large, irregular granite boulders from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The granite is left untouched and spans many colors. Thielbar and Fugard’s community house addition, from 1931 combines granite fieldstone with cast stone walls and uses concrete formwork to imitate carved stone which was then a new construction technique.

The church building also adheres to Criterion 5 as a work of a significant architect, Frederick B. Townsend, who has an extensive portfolio across the city notably the landmark district housing the Five Houses on Avers. Criterion 7 is also met given the distinctive visual features of the church’s facade.

Epworth Church BuildingCommission on Chicago Landmarks

As mentioned before, the church building is currently for sale. The demolition permit report we previously reported upon has been retracted. According to Church Properties Reimagined, a third-party non-profit is a residential developer interested in the property. The non-profit specializes in helping church properties. Spokespeople for the non-profit have said that they will be asking the developer to consider reuse of the church by converting the interior into residential units.

Epworth Church BuildingCommission on Chicago Landmarks

While the future of the church remains to be seen, the preliminary landmark approval is a temporary safeguard from demolition. A full report on the property will be submitted by the landmark committee before a final recommendation is approved. The next steps would be the need for approvals from the Committee on Zoning and the full Chicago City Council official landmark status.

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