Aid in the Restoration of a Chicago Landmark

June 05, 2011

A 127-year-old church and community center that was once slated to be demolished is showing its worth.

The All Saints’ Episcopal Church, the city’s oldest wood-frame church building, is Chicago’s only finalist in the national This Place Matters competition, a program from the National Trust for Historic Preservation designed to recognize and support noteworthy buildings that are central to their communities.

All Saints Episcopal Church

Designed by architect John Cochrane and built in 1884, the church, located at the corner of Wilson and Hermitage in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood, was to be demolished before the Great Depression hit but survived and eventually thrived into the 1950s. One of its earlier congregants was writer Carl Sandburg, who once lived on Hermitage Avenue.

In the 1960s, attendance started to fall and, in 1992, the church was on the verge of being shutdown, despite being designated a Chicago Historical Landmark two year earlier.

Again, the parish survived and grew, and today the church is the focus of a preservation effort to restore its “Stick Style” design so it can continue to provide the services and outreach programs it offers to its diverse community.

What All Saints provides:

*A food pantry that provides groceries to 325 local families each week

*A community kitchen that feeds 125 seniors and homeless residents

*An “Ask a Nurse” program that offers weekly health counseling to those without private care and helps train student nurses in community nursing

*A monthly farmers market-style food pantry at a local public school

*A youth mentoring program focused on life skills for low-income kids

*A social justice program active on issues related to poverty, public education and LGBT equality

Locally, All Saints also leads various community-building events, such as the Ravenswood Run 5K, an annual back-to-school donation drive, and an Africa Bake Auction that raises $15,000-$20,000 each year. And it organizes civic gatherings such as neighborhood discussions with local policymakers, education forums and local art shows.

“All Saints may be a Chicago landmark but we are not a museum,” said the Rev. Bonnie A. Perry, rector. “More than a testimony to an architectural style or an historical point in time, All Saints is a living, breathing, vibrant community. We are saving our piece of 19th century history not just for its own sake, but so we can continue the 21st century outreach that goes on here.”

The National Trust has named 100 finalists from across the country in This Place Matters, and the top three finishers will win cash awards that will support restoration efforts.

Now it’s up to you. Individuals can vote one time from June 1 through June 30 for the property of their choice at preservationnation.org/take-action/this-place-matters/community-challenge/places/all-saints-episcopal-church.html.

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