LOGAN SQUARE — A long-discussed plan to restore the 109-year-old Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church, one of the most recognizable buildings in Logan Square, has received a major boost in funding.
The Chicago Commission on Landmarks on Thursday unanimously approved allocating $250,000 to the restoration project through the city’s Adopt-A-Landmark grant. The red brick church also known as Minnekirken at 2614 N. Kedzie Ave. is in the Logan Square boulevard landmark district.
Church leaders won conditional grant approval back in 2019, but Thursday’s vote makes it official.
The grant will allow church leaders to make “critical” repairs to the church, which has suffered from water damage and a crumbling brick facade. Church leaders say it’s important the work is done soon because major construction projects are planned for the square that could cause further damage to the building.
“It’s a sense of validation that many people feel this is an important project, not only for our members, but for people in the neighborhood, our aldermen, people who are familiar with architecture. They know how important this is,” said church treasurer Matt Nygaard, who has pushed for the restoration.
With the grant approved, restoration work will likely begin next month, depending on when city permits come through, said Barnaby Wauters, the project’s preservationist architect. The project is expected to be completed by the fall, Wauters said.
Under the project, crews will focus on stabilizing the church’s brick facade and making repairs to prevent water from running down the building and seeping in, Wauters said. No work will be done to the sanctuary, which is in good shape and doesn’t need renovations.
The city grant only pays for a portion of the project, which costs $725,000 in total. The rest of the funds will come from the church’s coffers and donations. Church leaders have raised more than $100,000 from 120 donors since late 2019.
To promote the fundraiser, church leaders had a resident put up a giant Band-aid banner on the church. The Band-aid is staying up until the work begins, Nygaard said.
Church leaders will continue to raise money as the project gets underway. There is more restoration work that needs to be done that is not covered under this project and church leaders hope to get that additional work done down the road, Wauters said.
This project is Minnekirken’s first extensive renovation since the church was completed in 1912.
The church is unique in that it’s one of just two in the United States where Norwegian is the primary language spoken. It’s also one of the oldest ethnic churches in Logan Square.
For decades, the church has been a community staple, Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) said at Thursday’s hearing.
“They have opened their doors countless times to host important public meetings,” Ramirez-Rosa said. “It’s not only an important place of worship for Norwegian Americans in the United States and in the Midwest, but it’s also an important hub for the community.”
There is increased urgency around stabilizing the church “with heavy, earth-moving machinery expected to operate not far from the church’s doorstep,” church leaders said in an online fundraiser in January 2020.
The city plans to rip up the notoriously dangerous Logan Square traffic circle and replace it with a better design. Developers are also converting the long-vacant Grace’s Furniture building into a 44-room boutique hotel with two restaurants.
Minnekirken’s restoration is for neighbors as much as it is for congregants, church leaders have said.
“Especially with this year of COVID and so many churches struggling and people struggling, I think it’s going to be uplifting for people to see a project done at a church that is so prominent in Logan Square,” Nygaard said.
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