NORTH LAWNDALE — A 90-year-old West Side church will likely be designated a Chicago landmark after a City Council vote Wednesday.
The council’s Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards on Tuesday unanimously approved the landmark application for Pentecostal Church of Holiness, 1444 S. Keeler Ave. City Council will vote to finalize the status Wednesday.
The designation would recognize both the historic value of the church’s Romanesque Revival architecture and the church’s role as a pillar of the K-Town neighborhood in North Lawndale. It also would boost Pastor Chaun Johnson’s efforts to preserve the church by protecting it from demolition, and allowing church leaders to access tax incentives and other financial benefits.
“We want to ensure that those who hear about North Lawndale will know that there is a lily in the valley. There is beauty in what seems to be degradation,” pastor Chaun Johnson said.
Pentecostal Church of Holiness has been a stalwart for Lawndale since 1931, when it was a Catholic parish known as Our Lady of Lourdes serving a mostly Czech population. The church remained a central part of K-Town even as the area transformed to a Black community in the 1950s, as racist housing policies and disinvestment made it one of the poorest parts of Chicago.
But in the 1960s, the church began expanding its social programs to support neighborhood residents. The church implemented several employment programs, including Lawndale for Better Jobs, which helped 300 residents find jobs in one year, according to the planning department. The program became a model for other city employment initiatives, planning officials said.
White flight from Lawndale led to plummeting membership at Our Lady of Lourdes from 900 parishioners in 1950 to 125 by 1956, according to city officials. The building began to decline in the 1960s due to the loss of church membership.
Even after becoming a Pentecostal congregation in 2005, the church has continued its legacy as a center for advancing the quality of life in Lawndale.
The church’s ministries continue to support job seekers in the area. They also have programs that provide free food, education resources, mental health services and clothing to residents. The church is currently working on vaccination initiatives to provide relief from the pandemic, and the congregation is also working to establish a community garden, Johnson said.
“I want to preserve it. We want to preserve our history, and demonstrate and show the community that we are invested in our neighborhood,” Johnson said.
Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.
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