Ten years after the fire that devastated the highly-significant Adler and Sullivan-designed Pilgrim Baptist Church/KAM Synagogue at 3301 S. Indiana Ave., the limestone and brick walls still stand behind scaffolding. Efforts to raise necessary funds to rebuild have been unsuccessful and there has been growing pressure from the neighborhood for forward movement. In an effort to stimulate action, the City took the church to housing court. Unfortunately, the outcome was the congregation’s decision to apply for a demolition permit.
The congregation had been attempting to sell the building and adjacent parking lot, but shifted directions in the months prior to the demo application. The Commission on Chicago Landmarks will likely consider the demo application in November.
Preservation Chicago strongly opposes demolition. Far too much of the historic fabric of this incredibly significant landmark building has already been lost. Additionally, the demolition of a portion of the brick walls could jeopardize the integrity of the entire structure and trigger an emergency demolition of the entire site. According to an engineering report, the current structure remains stable with no imminent threat of collapse.
Recognizing the significance of the structure, even in its diminished post-fire condition, Preservation Chicago is in active communication with the congregation, the church trustees and representatives from the City to encourage the withdrawal of the demolition permit. Last year, Preservation Chicago had proposed an adaptive reuse plan where the church would sell the property to the City, who would adapt the existing wall into a small outdoor amphitheater geared for gospel music managed by the Chicago Park District.