Time finally runs out for historic ex-synagogue: City to proceed with demolition after owners relent

March 16, 2012

A deteriorating former North Lawndale synagogue that has been the subject of a month-long preservation battle will be demolished, with pre-demo work on the structure likely beginning today, according to a city Department of Buildings spokesperson.

The old Anshe Kenesseth Israel temple, 3411 W. Douglas Blvd, will come down by force of an emergency demolition order issued by a judge last December. Preservationists, neighborhood residents and the building's owners, Abundant Life World Outreach ministry, had been working to delay demolition and develop a fundraising and reuse plan for the building, As recently as last Sunday, they cleaned up the building's exterior in hopes of convincing the city not to raze the structure.

But the owners changed their minds Wednesday and agreed not to stand in the way of the demolition, Building Department spokesman Caroline Weisser said Thursdsay. The ministry's attorney, Graham C. Grady, couldn't be reached for comment.

Demolition would bring an end to a 99-year-old building that played key roles in North Lawndale's days as a predominantly Jewish community and its following decades as an African American neighborhood. Built for $100,000 in 1913 and designed by Aroner & Somers, it was among the grandest synagogues along Douglas and Independence boulevards. In the 1960s, as an early home for Friendship Baptist Church, the Rev. Martin Luther King spoke on the building's front steps during his fair housing campaign here. It was known as Shepherd's Temple Baptist Church when it closed about a decade ago. The facade bears witness to this dual history:

Bulldozers could roll as early as next week.