The Second Church of Christ, Scientist, located at 2700 N. Pine Grove Avenue and Wrightwood Avenue, has been an architectural masterpiece in the Lincoln Park community for 116 years. It was dedicated on Easter Sunday, 1901 with four services and over 10,000 attendees. Today the congregation has dwindled to less than fifty . Due to the increasing cost of maintenance, the decision has been made to sell the property. Despite being designed by the celebrated architect Solomon S. Beman, this majestic Beaux-Arts building has no landmark protection and current zoning would allow a much taller building to be built.
Almost two years ago, the congregation hired Plaza Property Advisors to quietly approach to potential buyers including developers, schools and others as disclosed at the November 14, 2017 community meeting. According to John Colt Landreth, principal of Plaza Property Advisors, while there is a preference by the congregation to see the historic building saved, if it were demolished, a new building could go up to 10-stories without a change in zoning. Another possibility would be to build new only on the parking lot out back, he said, which would “probably be more acceptable to the congregation, who want the church building to remain.” (Rodkin, 11/15/17)
Ward Miller, Executive Director of Preservation Chicago, spoke at the public meeting to encourage preservation and landmarking of the historic building and for a cultural use for the historic gem.
As reported by Peter Von Buel in the Skyline, Ward said, “We do not need another residential high-rise at this site. It will adversely affect the quality of life, sunlight, air and throw shadows on adjacent buildings. What we do need collectively, is a great and amazing resource and cultural center, for an already dense neighborhood. This is a once-in-a-life-time chance. Let’s not blow it, with another embarrassing loss and demolition of one of Chicago’s great architectural treasures.”
“The church mentioned they will consider a donation of the building to a good steward, so let that steward be all of us collectively and let’s all advocate for a collective reuse that benefits all Chicagoans, looking to the near future,” said Miller, who added that Preservation Chicago will work with the congregation and the community to help make the community-center vision a reality.
Ward Miller has actively been seeking “angels” who could fund the deferred maintenance of the building and the conversion into a Lincoln Park cultural center or other community oriented use.
Built in 1901, the classical façade of the building recalls one of Beman’s most celebrated design, the “Merchant and Tailors’ Building” of Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.
“The World’s Fair building had received numerous awards for its designs. Beman worked with members of the Christian Science Movement and its leaders, including Mary Eddy Baker, the faith’s founder and leader, to design “a most perfect church prototype” for subsequent Christian Science buildings. Beman included few, if any, traditional religious symbols and symbolism, in designing a beautiful light-filled sanctuary and with an auditorium and assembly-space as a sanctuary,” added Miller.
According to Miller, its clean, open design would serve well as a Lincoln Park community or cultural center.
“The sanctuary of the church, with its art glass and gilded dome, its magnificent column-free space, with wide arches and honey-colored art windows; its rare Austin organ, could be an unparalleled space for concerts, cultural events, music, lectures, presentations affiliated with the local museums and institutions, including The Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Lincoln Park Zoo and The Peggy Notebaert Nature Center. This would all be located a mere half-block from Lincoln Park, and would be an amazing resource for the Lincoln Park community, and for all of Chicago,” suggested Miller.
“While some may question the feasibility of such a plan, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has recently said he supports branch cultural centers throughout Chicago. The Beman-designed building, presents a rare opportunity to create such a center,” said Miller.
“The Chicago Cultural Center was constructed as the Chicago Public Central Library in 1897. It was rethought as the Chicago Cultural Center in 1977 and has been one of the best reuse projects in the city’s history. It’s still a remarkable center and proof of a visionary series of decisions that were made in the 1970s, by elected officials, city leaders, and philanthropic organizations. Let’s continue to have that visionary outlook and reuse the church building for everything both cultural and imaginative. Let’s ask the church, city, elected officials to work together with our Chicago philanthropy community to make this vision a reality,” Miller said. (Von Buol, Skyline, 11/22/17)