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Archdiocese Reconsidering Tearing Down Shrine of Christ the King

By Sam Cholke | February 19, 2016 2:03pm | Updated on February 22, 2016 8:13am
 The Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago is considering
The Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago is considering "alternative arrangements" for Shrine of Christ the King and is putting off demolition.
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DNAinfo/Sam Cholke

HYDE PARK — With demolition permits in hand, the Archdiocese of Chicago said Friday it will wait to tear down the Shrine of Christ the King.

Preservationists and activists cheered the news Friday that there was now more time to find a way to save the shrine at 6401 S. Woodlawn Ave., which the Archdiocese had planned to knock down as soon as it could after an October fire nearly destroyed the building.

“The Archdiocese has received the demolition permit from the city of Chicago,” a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese said Friday. “However, we are in talks with the leadership of the Shrine of Christ the King about an alternative arrangement and will provide further information as soon as it is available.”

Members of the congregation said they hoped the news was an indication that the Archdiocese would take up Preservation Chicago’s offer of $450,000 from anonymous donors to stabilize the church.

“Thank the good Lord,” said Emily Nielsen, a member of the congregation that has lead efforts to save the shrine. “Everything would be easier if they just canceled the demolition permits, but we’re glad to hear they’re pursuing alternative arrangements.”

She said the congregation would continue its daily vigils at the shrine to watch for any signs of demolition starting.

Preservationists also cheered the move by the Archdiocese, but said they have not yet seen signs that the Archdiocese would take up the offer to stabilize the church.

“It’s great news and terrific on all fronts,” said Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, which raised the money to stabilize the church from a handful of concerned donors.

He said the group has not had any formal meetings with the Archdiocese since announcing the money for stabilization was available, but would continue to encourage the Archdiocese to rebuild and reuse the church.

The roof and nearly all of the interior of the shrine was destroyed by a fire in October when a rag used for varnishing the floors combusted and started the blaze in the second floor balcony.

The canons of the shrine have also raised nearly $68,000 to rebuild, but have held back on pursuing more donations or spending any of it after the Archdiocese announced in early January that it planned to tear down the shrine because repairing it was “cost prohibitive.”

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