Wicker Park church collapsed into rubble then wrecking equipment began razing entire site


Even the firemen seemed to be in disbelief to see the church and much of the 1909 building destroyed and cars covered in debris along Evergreen

The City of Chicago initiated an administrative order for demolition of 1901 through 1911 W. Schiller (Schiller and Evergreen) in Wicker Park after the church structure collapsed into a pile of rubble around 6 a.m. this morning, Mon., Oct. 24. 


On the Evergreen side, Fire Department ladder is seen through what was a window

Fortunately everyone is quite sure that no one was in the structure at the time. At one point this morning, it was rumored that someone was in the building removing a steel beam. 


The left edge of the building was where the fail crack started on the Evergreen side

John Conrad Schiess, architect, said that what appears to have happened was that the wall between the church and 1909 W. Schiller collapsed. He explained that in the basement, it was an open space from one end of the property to the other. Apparently over the years, the solid walls of the attached buildings had been removed. "What held it all up was a series of posts and steel beams. One of the beams failed and brought the wall down [where it attached to 1909]. They were all tied together at the floor level." That then brought the church walls to fall inward.

More than 12 cars were damaged and towed away, while owners drove away others. If anyone has property or vehicle damage resulting from the collapse and has not been given the number to call, the number is 312.286.0906. Interforum Holdings, LLC, the property owners, established that insurance emergency number to call.


John Schiess stands at the front of the church with Schiller behind him on the right and Evergreen on the left

According to Schiess, the developers want to move forward and "will probably recreate 1909 and 1911 as rendered in the original drawings. It is uncertain what will be designed for the east side of the site."

They have a meeting Tuesday morning in the Building Commissioners office.

Original Project Plans and Work
"For me, having to tear down these buildings is a huge disappointment," said Schiess, who was initially hired by Interforum Holdings, LLC, to do the plans and renderings presented to Wicker Park Committee's Preservation and Development Committee, early in 2015. 

At that time, the two buildings on the west side of the property were to become single family homes. The roughly 3,170 square foot space, known as the church, was to become two units. Today Schiess said that after talks with realtors, they had changed that concept to one large single family for the east end of the property. 


Note that the yellow awning on the is on the front of what is actually 1909 W. Schiller but is marked as 1905

The initial permit issued was for the church. Under a drywall permit, Schiess explained, demolition was permitted. There was a stop order on the property at one point. It is unclear as to whether that was because of the confusion over the various addresses given for the different segments of the property or not. "1905" was used on the first permit and is now being referred to as "1907." However, the front of what is to be the 1909 building shows as 1905.


Demolition began mid afternoon

Two more permits, one for each of the single family buildings on the west side of the property were issued on Sept. 1. They are 1909 and 1911 W. Schiller. Work was beginning on those two parcels.

According to Schiess, Igor Blumin and Alex Zdanov want to hold a meeting with the community and plan to work through 1st Ward Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno's office. Raymond Valadez, Moreno's Chief of Staff, said that they first want to know what happened structurally.

Then they will advise the developers to work through the regular process for new projects. They would prepare plans, communicate with the Alderman's office then go to the Wicker Park Committee with their new plans for the site.


Before dawn broke, George Menninger stands with coffee in hand with light showing through the destroyed buildings

The collapse
"While laying in bed I heard a big noise then a shuttering of the house. Thought that was a big wind and then about 10 to 15 minutes later, I heard the fire engines," said George Menninger, a resident close to this morning's church collapse. 

According the Chicago Police Department, the call came in at 6 a.m. this morning. 

Another resident west of the site on Schiller was unaware what happened, except for the fact that there was a lot of Fire Department equipment on the block. 

Barbara Watt who also lives west on Schiller says that her concern has always been about safety and that the site did not always appear be properly secured. 

*Street numbers for the property are somewhat confusing when referring to documents because structures changed over the years. For building documents, the owners are using the addresses of 1907, 1909 and 1911, however the demolition is for 1901 through 1911.



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