26 years after St. Boniface Church held its last mass and 16 long years of relentless preservation advocacy, St. Boniface is saved! Restoration will finally come for St. Boniface Church with its four square red-brick towers that have visually dominated Eckhart Park and provided an emotional sense of place to the Noble Square/West Town community since 1904. The Romanesque church designed by architect Henry Schlacks located at 1348 W. Chestnut St., was nominated as a Chicago 7 Most Endangered Building in 2003.
With demolition imminent, two minutes before the hard deadline of Friday, 5 p.m. on September 23rd, all the dozens of moving parts were pinned down long enough to allow the impossible happen and the deal to transfer ownership to close. The new owner Michael Skoulsky with Stas Development is committed to a preservation sensitive restoration and adaptive reuse. The church will be converted into 15 residences and a new Chicago Academy of Music building on the adjacent lot will offer performances, music lessons, and recording facilities, and student and faculty housing.
“This is so beautiful, I had tears in my eyes as I rounded the corner here tonight,” said Ward Miller, Preservation Chicago. “This morning in another meeting I was told that there was no safety net for this project. If the deal didn’t close today, it was all over.”
800 people came out to celebrate St. Boniface on October 15th. The event included open access to the church, live music, food trucks, free Lagunitas beer, many smiles and hugs and even a few tears of relief. A special thanks to Ward Miller, Brad Suster and Cathie Bond from Preservation Chicago for sponsoring the event.
The road to St. Boniface’s preservation has been a long, complex, and difficult. Despite that the prospects for success were remote, Preservation Chicago never lost hope and never stopped advocating for a preservation-oriented outcome.
Preservation Chicago’s leadership role was pivotal in this save, but many preservation partners worked tirelessly to support St. Boniface. Preservation Chicago wishes to recognize and celebrate Michael Skoulsky of Stas Development; David Ruttenberg of Marc Realty Capital, Skoulsky’s equity partner in the project, and Michael Scott Carter, Executive Director, and Rory Dean Smith, Chief Operations Officer, of the Chicago Academy of Music (CAM). The courageous leadership of Eleanor Gorski, City of Chicago Landmarks Division and Lisa Misher, City of Chicago Senior Counsel was instrumental to this process. Persistent advocacy from Lisa Dichiera at Landmarks Illinois and the continued interest of local press kept the fight for St. Boniface in the public spotlight. Neighborhood organizations including Neighbors of St. Boniface lead by the intrepid Kevin Stawiarski, East Village Association’s Bob Zwolinski and Gladys Anselmo never faltered and to all the Neighbors of St. Boniface including Claudia Sainsot, Jon Kulpit, Kathy Thalmann, Jim Boccarossa, and architect, Mike Vasilko.