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Check Out This Abandoned Synagogue In Uptown, Now On YouTube

By Josh McGhee | February 1, 2017 6:18am

UPTOWN — A 19-year-old urban explorer captured a rare glimpse of the Agudas Achim North Shore Synagogue when he ventured into the abandoned building for his video blog.

About two weeks ago, Ethan Clerc, a freshman at Columbia College Chicago, went inside the "Last Great Synagogue" at 5029 N. Kenmore Ave. along with a recently abandoned hospital for episode 14 of "The Adventures of Ethan Clerc."

"We drove by it and saw it looked abandoned and went in. I'm really into urban exploring, so we knew we needed to check it out," said Clerc, who moved from Minnesota to Chicago for college. "It's crazy how many abandoned locations there are in Chicago."

Check out the episode below:

Clerc has been exploring abandoned buildings in urban areas for about two years. The adventures have taken him inside places like the Damen Silos, known as one of Chicago's most mysterious properties, and Cook County Hospital, he said.

Still, when he posts videos about the adventures he immediately gets a call from his parents asking why he goes on the often dangerous missions. Despite being on the National Register of Historic Places, the synagogue had been a teardown candidate because of extensive water damage, vandalism and years of deferred maintenance.

"I enjoy seeing places other people don't get to see," he said.

He said the video has gotten some of the best reactions from viewers, along with the Exploring Gary, Indiana episode, he said.

In 2016, the century-old synagogue was bought by Cedar Street for $1.25 million to be converted into apartments. It was built in 1922 with Romanesque Revival, Art Deco and Spanish influences. The building, which cost $400,000 to build in the 1920s, was put up for sale in 2012.

For renderings and blueprints of how the synagogue will become a 40-unit apartment building with parking click here.

Clerc's adventures in film began in 2010 when his father gave him and his brother a video camera, he said.

While his first productions were "really dumb videos with friends, it turned into something I took seriously," Clerc said. "It quickly became a bigger thing than I ever thought it was going to be."

Since then, he's crowd-sourced three feature films: "Mousetrap," "Mousetrap 2" and "Sundog." "Mousetrap," filmed in 2013, follows a group of friends spending the night at a condemned school, where they run into a janitor known for murdering his victims. It is available on Amazon Video. 

His third film, "Sundog," which is also available on Amazon Video, was filmed while he was still in high school and required a trip to Chicago, he said.

"That was the first time I came to Chicago, and I fell in love with it," Clerc said.

The short films and documentaries, which can take about a week to edit, helps him keep his repertoire updated as he begins work on his fourth film, "Cottonwood."

He plans to begin crowd-sourcing money for the project this summer and will be updating his website, Ethan Clerc Films, with more details about the project, he said.