Our Lady of Victory Church should be a protected Chicago landmark, says Far Northwest Side Group

JEFFERSON PARK — A Far Northwest Side group wants a historic church that held its last mass last year to be given historic status to save it from potential demolition.

Our Lady of Victory, 5212 W. Agatite Ave., closed her parish as part of the Archdiocese of Chicago renew my church consolidation plan. The building is still a Catholic church open for services under the permission of the Archdiocese for the time being.

Although the archdiocese has no immediate plans for the building, it mentioned options to sell the property when it announced the closure in 2020. This has caused panic among parishioners and community members, as they want to ensure the building is preserved and remains a neighborhood asset.

A petition by the neighborhood group Save Our Lady of Victory calls on elected officials to work with the city to grant the church landmark status.

“It’s one of the most fabulous pieces of architecture on the northwest side – we don’t want to lose it,” said Susanna Ernst, president of the Chicago Northwest Historical Society and a Our Lady of Victory parishioner who organized the petition.

Our Lady of Victory, founded in 1906, is oldest catholic church on the far northwest. It has hosted Irish, Polish and German congregations. Its architectural significance, community outreach and growth between the 1920s and 1950s make it important to the region, Ernst said.

The church has been suggested for landmark status for the Chicago Landmarks Commission by the Northwest Chicago Historical Society, Ernst said. The commission, which is a branch of the City Planning and Development Department, is responsible for recommending sites for legal protection as official city landmarks.

If the commission finds that Notre-Dame de la Victoire meets the requirements of historical, architectural and cultural significance to become a landmark, the approval of the alderman and the property would be necessary, according to the city. landmarks ordinance. A public hearing, followed by a decision by the commission, is then presented to the city council before the monument becomes official.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Our Lady of Victory, 5212 W. Agatite Ave., in Portage Park on November 17, 2021.

While some people view the Notre Dame de la Victoire group as prejudicial to a possible sale of the church, Ernst said she fears it could be sold to an entity that would destroy it.

“Because the archdiocese hasn’t told anyone who the potential buyers are, we have to assume the worst,” she said.

Archdiocesan spokeswoman Susan Thomas said options are still being considered for the property, but those owned by the archdiocese are not considered a landmark by the Catholic organization.

“To the extent that we sell or transfer ownership of a property to another owner, that owner is free to pursue this designation if they wish,” the archdiocese said in a statement. “We are not aware of any decision to designate Our Lady of Victory as a landmark.”

The petition for landmark designation has been signed by over 400 people.

RELATED: Ahead of Last Mass at Our Lady of Victory Church, Jefferson Park Community Pledges to Preserve Historic Building

Preservation Chicago added the church to its list of 2021 endangered buildings and recommended that it be repurposed as another religious space, event venue, or housing.

“The church could still remain a sacred site, but perhaps be wrapped up in other uses, perhaps community-related, or perhaps an educational institution,” said Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation. Chicago. “The historic designation encourages the right kinds of ideas and a creative imagination applied to these structures.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Our Lady of Victory, 5212 W. Agatite Ave., in Portage Park on November 17, 2021.

In addition to benefiting the Far Northwest Side, which has few iconic buildings, the designation could benefit the archdiocese, Miller said. With the closure of the churches of the archdiocese and parishes of the region as part of his renew my church plan, its Catholic churches could see new life and sustainability with the city’s help, Miller said.

The archdiocese “could still mark the exterior of the building and encourage the city to maintain large structures, even if they are closing or in disrepair,” Miller said.

Since the archdiocese does not view its properties as a landmark, Miller said consent to ownership of religious buildings — added to the ordinance in 1987 — should be repealed.

“City funds could be used to repair these buildings…. It would show collaboration rather than a corporate hierarchy in an ivory tower making decisions that impact communities across the city and many, many people,” he said.

Local aldermen and state officials have joined in the outreach effort to keep the church in the community. Last year Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) named North Laramie Avenue of West Agatite Avenues in West Sunnyside as Honorary Our Lady of Victory.

“It’s our history, our architecture. This is ours,” Ernst previously said of the church. “He belongs to the community. And when you take that away from us, you don’t just take it away from Catholics – you take it away from every person.

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