Preservationists Race to Save Historic West Ridge Building


The celebrated West Ridge nonprofit Misericordia is looking to expand its campus by demolishing a historic building next door. Preservationists have a plan to save that building, but the timeline is tight.

The former Chicago Town and Tennis Club was built in the Tudor Revival style in the 1920s, during that decade’s tennis craze. The building later housed an Elks Club, and most recently, Unity Church. It’s the work of prominent architects George and Philip Maher, who are usually known for working in the Prairie style.

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“These great architects were artists and great masters at their building trade and their design skills,” said Ward Miller of Preservation Chicago, which listed the building as one the city’s “most endangered” earlier this year. “I would call it a very rare example of the work of George and Philip Maher, which would make it more important to protect.”

Last year, the building was purchased by Misericordia, a home for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the street. In December, Misericordia applied for a permit to demolish the building as part of an expansion project. But Preservation Chicago proposed moving the structure 250 feet to the south to serve as the field house of Emmerson Park, which sits on land that once belonged to the tennis club.

“The current field house is a former comfort station and restroom and it’s got a tiny little community room and a tinier office,” Miller said. “It’s really falling apart … so this would be an opportunity to expand programs.”

But it’s not clear if preservationists will be able to come up with the estimated $1.5 million needed to move the building and fix it up. They’re counting on contributions from Misericordia and the Chicago Park District. So far, neither has made any commitments.

Whether the building is demolished or relocated, Misericordia plans to build new housing on the site to help address a backlog. In a statement, the organization said: “While we recognize the building is important to some, we would hope that people can respect and appreciate our efforts to provide residential opportunities to those deserving men and women who have been waiting patiently for years to call Misericordia their home.”

Miller says he fully supports the organization’s mission, “but we’d really like to see Misericordia be a partner in this whole idea, and unify and join people with disabilities that are part of their programs here with people from the community.”

There’s a hold on demolition that expires next Wednesday, June 17. Misericordia says it’s working toward tearing the property down in the near future. If preservationists can come up with the money to move the building, they’d have to do so by Aug. 31.

Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th Ward) said he’s been in conversations with the park district about whether moving the building to Emmerson Park is feasible, and hopes to hear more soon.


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