Adaptive Reuse Chicago Historic Preservation

"Saving" a Chicago Church

by Michael R. Allen

Over at ArchitectureChicago PLUS, Lynn Becker has posted renderings of a bizarre plan to “save” Chicago’s St. Boniface Church by retaining the front elevation and the street face of the crossing, demolishing the rest and constructing a massive six-story apartment building for senior citizens. This has to be one of the ugliest designs that I’ve seen lately.

There is some grace in retaining parts of a neighborhood landmark on site where those whose lives connected with the church can still have a physical connection. that could be better than total demolition or relocation. The Buffalo, New York archdiocese is preparing to relocate an entire historic church to suburban Atlanta — another form of preservation that robs the church of a meaningful historic site. Many Buffalo residents oppose the move. The plan for St. Boniface in Chicago seems to be an odd compromise, and one that mocks the parts of the church that will remain.

Who do you think?

4 replies on “"Saving" a Chicago Church”

What if someone proposed something similar for the decaying Bethlehem Lutheran Church at Salisbury and Florissant in the 3rd Ward? Today we have crumbling brick, broken stained glass, and lots of pigeons.

Would a partial rehab/preservation effort be better than total demolition? And who should be the arbiter of good and bad in these cases? Developers, property owners, architects; preservationists; or, neighborhood people?

Add 4th Baptist in Old North to the same question, along with lots of other abandoned old city churches.

Chris: A typical facadectomy would preserve the entirety of both street-facing elevations.

Anonymous: You are on to something with the abandoned north side churches. Fourth Baptist in particular is a good example because the fire damage makes it very unlikely to ever serve as a church again. What could be done using the shell?

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