The Stone Temple Baptist Church, 3620 W Douglas Blvd., in North Lawndale could be headed for landmark status. Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced on Martin Luther King Day that the church, which hosted the civil rights icon multiple times beginning in 1959, will be considered for the distinction by the city’s Landmarks Commission.
The “monumental brick and stone edifice was built in 1926 as a synagogue for Romanian Jews who came to the U.S. to escape state-sanctioned anti-Semitism in the Kingdom of Romania,” according to a statement released by the city. “In 1954 the synagogue was bought by an African-American congregation who moved their Baptist church from the South Side into the former synagogue under the leadership of Reverend J. M. Stone.”
“Stone Temple Baptist Church has been a community icon in North Lawndale for decades, providing a forum for Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision for equitable housing in Chicago during the civil rights era, and a place of worship for community residents since the 1920s,” Emanuel said. “It’s entirely appropriate that the Landmarks Commission should consider honoring its important role in the community with a Landmark designation.”
The church is pastored by Bishop Derrick M. Fitzpatrick, the grandson of Rev. J.M. Stone — a civil rights supporter and friend of Martin Luther King, Sr.
It could be a six- to nine-month process from the time the commission votes to begin the church’s landmark status (which is likely, considering Emanuel’s support, but not guaranteed) and when the commission’s recommendation for the distinction is forwarded to the City Council for consideration and a binding vote.
“As a landmark, the church would be officially recognized as one of Chicago’s most historically significant buildings and be protected from significant alteration and demolition,” according to the city.