Bronzeville residents are getting tired of seeing the once grand Pilgrim Baptist Church at 3301 S. Indiana Ave. surrounded by a nest of steel supports that block the sidewalk, and they want action taken this year. Originally built in 1890 as the K.A.M. Isaiah Israel Temple, the limestone structure is notable for a variety of reasons, but it's very important to preservationists as the church was designed by the famed Chicago architects Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan. During a roof restoration effort in 2006, the church was nearly totally destroyed by a fire. Two years after the fire that very nearly ruined the building, church officials came up with a plan to restore and rebuild the landmark structure, however, there has been no movement on the major preservation effort in the nine years since the fire took place. However, some preservationists are now suggesting a simple solution to the problem: transform the shell of the church into a new park space.
Ward Miller, the Executive Director of Preservation Chicago believes that turning the shell of the church into a public park space is a simple and cost-effective way to ensure that the landmark structure is not only saved, but will also provide some relief to Bronzeville residents who are ready for action to be taken. "There are simply not enough Adler and Sullivan buildings remaining, and its loss would be a terrible tragedy on top of the loss by fire of the church building back in 2006," Miller told the Tribune last week.
While the city has witnessed some notable preservation wins this year, there have also been some beloved buildings demolished. Just last week, the century-old St. Dominic's Church in River North was razed, meanwhile in Humboldt Park, the original Salerno Butter Cookie factory was removed from the mandatory 90-day demolition delay hold list and briskly destroyed. Would turning the shell of this once great building into a park really be the best solution? If the only other option is demolition, then it might just be.