demolition of south side chicago church rings in the new year

by eric j. nordstrom and ornament chicago 

i was notified the other day that the ingleside community church of the nazarene (1905) located at the corner of 72nd and ingleside will be wrecked in the coming weeks. naturally, i struggled with internal resistance since i had to abruptly abandon prior engagements in order meet with the wrecker, document the building, and determine whether there were architectural elements worth salvaging. i was pleasantly surprised when told the church wanted the cornerstone and time capsule (if one exists).

church facade. carelessly grabbing wrong bag of lenses on the way out, led to terribly distorted images.

 

ingleside community church of the nazarene is located in grand crossing, a community about eight miles south of the loop named after a 19th century right-of-way feud between the lake shore and michigan southern railway and the illinois central railroad that lead to a “frog war” where one railroad attempted to cross the tracks of another at the “frog”, or piece of track that allows the two tracks to cross at a junction or switch.  unfortunately the frog war at grand crossing resulted in a crash in 1853 that killed 18 people and injured 40 others.   following the accident the intersection remained dangerous until it was elevated in 1912.  ironically industry in the area continued to develop during the sixty year period between the crash and the elevation because all trains were required to make a full stop there.

many of the residents of this early railroad settlement were of irish, english, and scottish descent.  by the 1890s factory and craft workers of german descent were settling in the area.  the world’s columbian exposition of 1893 stimulated further growth and the population of the area steadily increased between 1895 and 1912, the period during which this church was built.

indiana limestone cornerstone with lightly incised date. copper box or "time capsule" likely deeply embedded within the stone.

 

we can trace events back to as early as 1879 related to the building of the church at 72nd and Ingleside.  at that time a small enclave of Norwegian families lived at Grand Crossing and Parkside, an intersection that roughly translates to current day South Chicago Avenue and 75th street.  they had been part of a religious community further north in the Hyde Park area but eventually a Methodist Episcopalian church was built by the presiding elder A. Haagensen at the corner of 76th and Ingleside in 1886 to accommodate these families.

this extant church was known by an array of names: "Hyde Park", "South Chicago", "Grand Crossing", "Bethel", and eventually current day "Ingleside-Whitfield United Methodist Church”.   According to “A History of the Norwegians of Illinois” published in 1905 this earlier church was used by this Norwegian community for about twenty years until the new Methodist Episcopal church was built at 7201 S. Ingleside.

one of two carved indiana limestone exterior capitals flanking the entrance.

 

its unclear why there was a need for a new Methodist Episcopalian church but we do know the area was rapidly changing during this time, and a building permit for the “Bethel Norwegian Danish Methodist Episcopal Church” at 7201 Ingleside Avenue was listed in the Chicago Tribune on July 28, 1905 at a cost $3500.

the church was built by then presiding elder L.A. Larson over the next three months and dedicated on Oct 22, 1905.  the property included a smaller parsonage building behind the church and a stable across the street, per the Sanborn fire insurance map.

original newel post with turned spindles and railing.

during the 1930s the neighborhood had grown to include swedes and italians, and had changed from a railroad to a residential community, however many residents had jobs at the nearby rail lines.  the church persisted as “bethel norwegian danish methodist church” until at least 1956, the last year any definitive evidence is found of its earliest identity, when a wedding occurred between two norwegian families in the area.  during the decade of the 1950s, the african american population of greater grand crossing grew rapidly, and sometime during that period the church became the ingleside community church of the nazarene with its present address of 939 e 72nd street.

the interior has been substantially altered. any and all stained glass windows were removed long ago.

 

within the greater grand crossing area the smaller, triangular “pocket” of land between oakwood cemetery (71st street), the norfolk southern tracks to the west (south chicago avenue), and the metra tracks to the east is known as “pocket town” or just “the pocket”.

the church's parsonage

 

in recent years the area has seen an influx of millons from gary comer, founder of lands end, who grew up in “the pocket” in the 1940s.  the gary comer youth center home of the south shore, for example, is across the street from ingleside community church of the nazarene, and revere elementary school which comer attended and generously supported, is around the corner.  while comer died of prostate cancer in 2006, the the comer science and education foundation and comer family foundation continue to plow money into the area, to the tune of 86 million as of 2013. it remains to be seen what will become of the land once the church is demolished, but there can be no doubt the neighborhood will continue to evolve as further development occurs.

rectory interior with original and largely intact staircase.

Leave a Reply

Sorry, you must be logged in to post a comment.

From the blog