1817 Church St.

Plans to establish a black history museum at 1817 Church St. in Evanston appear near collapse.

1817 Church St.

1817 Church St., in a photo taken about the time the city handed the building over to the non-profit group.

In May 2001 the city gave the building at that address to a non-profit group that promised to open a Black American Heritage House and Technological Resource Center at the site within nine months.

Over six years later city officials now are moving to seize the former pool hall from the Evanston Westside Citizens District Council, Inc. saying the group has never opened the facility.

Some work was done on the building this summer, but the project apparently remains incomplete.

When the city gave the building to the non-profit group, it made the group sign a quit-claim deed that would convey the property back to the city. The parties agreed the city could record the deed if the group failed to open the museum within nine months, or allowed it to close for over 180 days at any time during the next 99 years.

The city’s Housing & Community Development Act Committee, which includes four aldermen, voted Sept. 18 to recommend recovery of the building to the full City Council, after discussions with the non-profit group that have been underway at least since July.

At the request of Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, the City Council Monday voted to postpone action on the recovery plan for two weeks to permit last-minute efforts to salvage the project.

Documents indicate the city acquired the building for $175,000 and agreed to spend over $200,000 in Community Development Block Grant Funds to help the group rehabilitate the structure. Officials did not indicate Monday how much of the CDBG funds have been spent and no representatives of the non-profit group, headed by Bettye Palmer, addressed the council.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. 1817 Church Street
    It might interest readers to learn that this lovely building was originally constructed in 1928 to house the prestigious North Shore Animal Hospital. It is a stately survivor and contributes to Evanston’s rich architectural heritage.

    The following story (and a drawing of the building) appeared in the January 5, 1928 edition of The Evanston Review.

    Since 1919 when Dr. J.N. Lacroix was mustered out of the United States army and came to Evanton to found the North Shore Animal Hospital, man’s best friend, the dog, and the other two most common household pets, cats and caged birds, have had the advantage of an institution where their best interests could be adequately served.

    The hospital has now far outgrown its present quarters at 1021 Davis Street and a new and modern hospital building is under construction at 1819 (sic) Church Street, owned by Dr. Lacroix and members of his staff and representing an investment of $60,000.

    William Campbell Wright drew the plans for the attractive hospital building, which will be a worthy addition to Evanston’s already numerous distinctive structures. The building is almost “under roof” and the hospital organization hopes to occupy it early in April.

    The architecture of the new building is French in feeling. It is constructed of Bedford stone and face brick and the mansard roof will be slate covered. Stone dormers with wrought iron balconies decorate the facade. The walls of the reception room are of caen stone and the beamed and paneled ceiling is to be hand frescoed. The floor is slate and a big fireplace will be set in one end.

    Sometimes as many as 90 animals are under treatament in the wards of the present quarters at the same time, and an extensive out practice is maintained by Dr. Lacroix and his associates in addition. The only difference in practice between the animal hospital and any of the institutions devoted to human welfare is the necessitous diagnosis by purely objective means.

    The specific equipment of the new building will include X-ray and microscopic laboratories, operating rooms, dispensary isolation wards and observation wards.

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