Demolition Approaches For Code Orange South Side Church

A number of holy places in Chicago have met their demise over the last 20 years. Some have been repurposed. Some have been demolished. The former Saint Stephenson Missionary Baptist Church looks like it’s next in line to meet the hot kiss of the wrecking ball.

Saint Stephenson Missionary Baptist Church in August 2020 (Courtesy of Little Italy Spy Blake)
Saint Stephenson Missionary Baptist Church in August 2020 (Courtesy of Little Italy Spy Blake)

Little Italy Spy Blake sent in the photograph above, showing the current situation at 1319 South Ashland Avenue. When we were last there, the building was forlorn, but still functional. Now the cupola is gone. Many of the windows are gone. And neighbors say it looks like it’s been through a fire. A good portion of the roofline is gone, save for a few stretches of cornice, and a pair of grotesques, futilely channeling water off of the roof of the northern tower.

Saint Stephenson earlier this decade

This church building was designed by Theodore Duesing, and opened in 1894 as the First Reformed Church of Chicago, a congregation formed in the mid-1800’s by Dutch settlers. A century later, the church moved to Berwyn. The 1,000-seat building was sold to another church, and then on to other churches over the years.

By the time the 21st century came, the building was racking up code violations. The most recent inspection this past February contained the following violation highlights:

  • Maintain building in safe condition so it does not constitute actual and imminent danger to public.
  • Maintain building windows and doors in safe condition.
  • Maintain floors, walls, and ceilings in safe condition.
  • Maintain building in safe condition. Premises now dangerous as vacant and open, uncompleted and abandoned, or vacant and boarded.
  • Maintain watchman at vacant or open premises.
  • Register vacant building within 30 days of it becoming vacant, or within 30 days after assuming ownership of an existing vacant building.

And so now the building appears to be at the end of its life. On May 22nd, a demolition permit was requested on behalf of a company called 130 Ashland Opportunity. And with the current state of world affairs, don’t expect anyone to come to this building’s rescue.

Location: 1319 South Ashland Avenue, Little Italy

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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