City Council Approves Final Landmark Designation For Epworth Church

Image of main auditorium by Matt Gilbert

The Chicago City Council has approved the final landmark designation for the Epworth Church at 5153 N Kenmore Avenue in Edgewater. Located south of the intersection with W Berwyn Avenue near Foster Beach, demolition efforts last year by a developer trying to construct residential on the site set-off the landmark process. Now the City Council has officially protected the structure which does not close it off to redevelopment opportunities.

Exterior image of main church building by Matt Gilbert

The status covers both the main church building as well as its adjacent community house built a few years later, with local residents being key in kickstarting the motion and getting it passed due its unique character as one of the last 1890s buildings in the area. Built in 1891, the main church contains a large sanctuary with ornate wood trusses and stained glass half-rose windows. A 1494 pipe organ and a stucco-clad chapel on the lower floor round out the historical building.

Exterior image of 1930’s addition by Matt Gilbert

A few years later in 1931 the adjoining three-story community house was built in a similar style and provided a mix of housing and additional space for the growing congregation. What sets the building apart the most is its rusticated boulder facade made up of stones floated down from Wisconsin by the architect himself, creating a unique texture on the busy lakefront street. However since then the congregation has shrunken and departed the complex altogether, even though it entered the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

Image of lower chapel by Matt Gilbert

Previous meetings with the Commission on Chicago Landmarks listed out the criteria the building met in order to be considered as such, including its heritage to the local community and the city as well as its architecture. With this approval a future owner could slightly alter the building including its windows, and thus the site is currently up for sale and seeking redevelopment.

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