A Chicago Church Stands on "Ceremony" to Skirt Preservation Designation

The tussle over the historic designation of a property owned by a Chicago church exposes the conflicting agendas of politics, property rights, preservation, and constitutional law.
September 2, 2012, 7am PDT | buildings and beyond
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Faced with a recent reality check on repair costs for its rectory, a Chicago church is now crying foul over a seven-year-old Chicago ordinance that includes the traditional house of residence for its parish priest in a city landmark district.

The Chicago Landmarks Ordinance provides that: "No building that is owned by a religious organization and is used primarily as a place for the conduct of religious ceremonies shall be designated as a historical landmark without the consent of its owner." The church claims the rectory was used in the past for religious ceremonies such as prayer groups and inter-faith weddings, and that it did object at the time the landmark district was being considered.

The rectory is a contributing building to the Logan Square Boulevards district, and the neighborhood Logan Square Preservation group wants to keep the historically significant building in the district and fears that to do otherwise would set a precedent undermining historic preservation districts in general.

Given its setting, the national cliche of Chicago politics enters the debate including arguments about voting, graft and aldermanic privilege in addition to religious freedom, mission and practice (in the same neighborhood where the recent chicken war was flamed). The debate also intersects with a recent constitutional challenge to landmark designation.

Thanks to Lynn Stevens

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