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Church members grateful landmark status was rejected

They hope to sell the 400-seat building and find one more appropriate for their now 40-member congregation.

The Second Church of Christ, Scientist in Evanston.

Members of the Second Church of Christ, Scientist are “very appreciative” of City Council’s decision not to declare their church an Evanston landmark, according to Church Board President Ann Ratajczyk.

On Monday, with a 6-1 vote, Council’s Planning and Development Committee rejected a recommendation authorizing landmark status.

The city’s Preservation Commission had said the 1946-vintage church at 2715 Hurd Ave. was worth landmarking because it was designed by famed Evanston architect, the late Lawrence Perkins.

But the congregation, which has shrunk from its original 400 members to about 40, argued landmark status would make it impossible to sell the structure, because of regulations on renovation or demolition.

The Church also said the facility does not have historical significance worthy of landmarking.

“We love the building,” Ratajczyk said, “but we want to sell it because we need to move into a right-sized location” for the current Church membership.

Currently, she said, the Christian Science Church “has so few people and so many seats.”

Three possible sales, one to another church, one to the Salvation Army, and one to a day care center, fell through in recent years because of community opposition. Only the day care center plan would have seen the church torn down and replaced.

Historic preservation had never been an issue until a neighbor across the street nominated the church for landmark status, in the wake of the day care center debate.

Church representatives said it was unfair to force the small congregation to pay multiple thousands of dollars to maintain a building which they do not want, cannot feasibly use, and cannot afford to keep.

City Council agreed.

Ratajczyk said there are presently no offers to buy the church. “We did not put it back on the market” during the landmark saga, which stretched for several months, she said.

Now, however, “we are regrouping to see what’s ahead,” she added, and there will be an effort to find a buyer.

“We are praying a solution will come forward to grace the neighborhood,” she said.

Ratajczyk said she is looking forward to moving out of Northwest Evanston facility.

“It’s been on the market for several years, and that’s been enough time to adjust to the idea of leaving and the wisdom of finding a place we can handle,” she added.

Ratajczyk has been a member of the Church for 70 years, since she was age two.

“It’s been my church home,” she said. “But a church is the congregation, not the building.”

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Jeff Hirsh

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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