The Commission on Chicago Landmarks has approved a final landmark recommendation for the Epworth Church building. Located at 5253 N. Kenmore, the church building has been formerly known as Epworth Methodist Episcopal Church and Epworth United Methodist Church.
Constructed in 1891 by architect Frederick B. Townsend, the preliminary designation also includes the community house addition from 1931 from architects Thielbar and Fugard. The congregation no longer worships inside the church and the property is currently being marketed for sale.
Meeting Criterion 1 for heritage, the Epworth Church building is a part of Edgewater’s history as it stood as a suburban scale church that was at home in the leafy retreat for Victorian-era Chicagoans that Edgewater was at the time. The land for the church was granted by John Cochran, the developer of Edgewater, and the design was donated by architect Frederick B. Townsend.
The church is also in compliance with Criterion 4 for its exemplary architecture. Built as a very rare example of fieldstone architecture, the building is made up of large, uncoursed granite boulders that were shipped in from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The granite is left in its natural shape and exhibits a wide variety of color. The community house addition, built in 1931 for the church’s growing needs, combines granite fieldstone with cast stone walls that use concrete formwork to mimic carved stone. This was a new construction and material method at the time.
The church building also meets Criterion 5 for being the work of a significant architect, in this case Fredrick B. Townsend, who has an extensive portfolio across the city including the Five Houses on Avers which is a landmark district. Criterion 7 is also met due to the unique and distinctive visual features that the church possesses in its exterior construction.
Although the context surrounding the church has changed, the building itself has excellent physical integrity, meeting the integrity criterion. The only major changes include the community house addition and the narthex added to the front of the church at the same time as the addition.
Significant features of the building to be protected are all exterior elevations including rooflines of both the original church and the community house. With a developer planning to convert the church and community house into affordable apartments, landmarks staff have included flexibility into the designation that will allow for the alteration of the windows to meet light and ventilation requirements for dwelling units.
With the final landmark recommendation approved, the proposed designation will head to City Hall for approvals from the Committee on Zoning and City Council. Details on the conversion to affordable apartments have not been shared.