Downtown high rises, public housing complexes, lakefront attractions and a historic West Side theater are on this year’s list of the most endangered spots in Chicago.
Preservation Chicago has released this year’s “most endangered list,” which includes eight entries instead of the usual seven. The list debuted in 2003 and is updated yearly, showing which portions of Chicago’s built environment are most threatened by redevelopment or through neglect.
This year’s list includes multiple clusters of buildings, including public housing sites, a stretch of Midcentury Modern buildings in West Ridge and a trio of structures in Old Town.
“The threats to our historic built environment are all across Chicago, but we have hope for our city that these places can be reused, repurposed and protected, making them a cornerstone to grow communities sensitively and holistically,” Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, said in a statement.
The Central Park Theater, 3535 W. Roosevelt Rd., was once a West Side hub for music, performing arts and film. But today, the historically significant building survives only due to the preservation efforts of the House of Prayer Church of God in Christ, which bought the deteriorating theater in 1971.
Under the leadership of founding pastor Lincoln Scott, the theater found new life as a community hub and place of worship. The House of Prayer congregation poured their resources into saving the building, which otherwise would have been torn down, said Robert Marshall, the church’s current pastor.
“We restored it and kept the building up. We didn’t want the building to just be torn down and go to waste. The pastors who came before me, they put [in] so much effort. They spent their own money. They put their houses up for mortgage renovate the building,” Marshall said.
Their efforts have left the interior details of the building almost entirely intact despite issues with water damage, roofing and tuckpointing. The theater was designed to be a marvel to visitors when built in 1917 by developers Balaban & Katz and architecture firm Rapp & Rapp.
The building has a Mediterranean revival-style façade with an auditorium that is a mix of French baroque, neoclassical and Renaissance revival architecture.
For decades, the theater was a fixture for the Jewish community in Lawndale as well as the Black residents who established themselves in the neighborhood during the Great Migration. After it was bought by House of Prayer, it became a gathering place for worship and after-school programs, and it was a world-renown venue for gospel performers, including Shirley Caesar and the Mighty Clouds of Joy.
Restoration of the theater has been marred by financial limitations of the church and maintenance challenges that caused the building to be shut down by the city.
“If we don’t do something soon, the way the weather is in Chicago, it’ll start deteriorating. First the outside, then the roof will give away. Then the cold will create cracks on the inside,” Marshall said.
The committee is seeking a Chicago Landmark designation for the theater, and its members are aiming to raise $100,000 in emergency stabilization funds to address building code issues. Supporters can donate to the restoration efforts via GoFundMe.
Preservation Chicago’s full list:
- Century and the Consumers buildings, 202 and 220 N. State. St., Loop
- Francis Cabrini Homes, Near North
- North DuSable Lake Shore Drive, 111 N. Lake Shore Drive, Downtown Chicago
- Peterson Avenue Midcentury Modern District, Peterson Avenue between Pulaski Road and Oakley Avenue, Rogers Park and Pullman
- Promontory Point, Hyde Park
- St. Martin de Tours has stood, 5848 S. Princeton Ave., Englewood
- Central Park Theater, 3535 W. Roosevelt Rd., North Lawndale