The bulldozers finally began rolling yesterday on Shepherd's Temple Baptist Church--nee Anshe Kenesseth Israel synagogue--in the city's North Lawndale community.
An emergency demolition order issued for the vacant and dilapidated structure last December finally claimed the building, 3411 W. Douglas Blvd. Built in 1913, the old temple survived almost a century, housing three different congregations and two separate religions. The Rev. Martin Luther King spoke on its now-crumbled front steps when the building was home to the influential Friendship Baptist Church in the 1960s. A young Golda Meir, who lived at 1306 S. Lawndale, either worshipped at the temple or attended early Zionist movement meetings there during her brief stay in Chicago after coming here in 1917, according to some reports.
But in the end--and despite all that history and architecture--Shepherd's Temple was a big, neglected and deteriorating building located across the street from a school, no less. The admirable effort by preservationists bought the building a little time and a lot of attention--but ultimately no cash.
In truth, efforts to preserve this structure and pass it into capable, capitalized hands should have begun at least a decade ago.