West Side Pentecostal Holiness Church is now a Chicago landmark
NORTH LAWNDALE – The West Side has a new landmark in Chicago: the 90-year-old Pentecostal Holiness Church in the K-Town neighborhood of North Lawndale.
The historic designation was approved by city council on Wednesday, giving the building protection from demolition and access to tax and financial incentives. Church pastor Chaun Johnson began researching historic status in 2019.
“We want to make sure anyone who hears of North Lawndale will know there is a lily in the valley. There is beauty in what appears to be degradation, ”said Pastor Chaun Johnson.
The church was originally founded as a Catholic parish, Our Lady of Lourdes, which served the predominantly Czech population who migrated to Lawndale from the Pilsen district. The Catholic parish was originally a wooden building, but as the congregation grew it was rebuilt in 1932 in the Romanesque Revival architecture that remains today.
The church remained a central part of K-Town even as the area transformed into a black community in the 1950s, as racist housing policies and divestment made it one of the poorest parts of Chicago.
This historic status also recognizes the contributions of Bishop Michael R. Dempsey and the legacy of sustained social service to the Holiness Pentecostal Church since his tenure there.
Dempsey became the Pentecostal pastor in 1965 as unemployment in Lawndale rose dramatically and church membership declined. Dempsey founded a program called Lawndale for Better Jobs to help residents find jobs. In one year, more than 300 people got jobs, planning department officials said.
Lawndale for Better Jobs was eventually modeled into a city-wide program that served over 93,000 job seekers in 1973. The program received national recognition after the visit of the then Vice President , Hubert Humphrey.
Even after becoming a Pentecostal congregation in 2005, the church continues the legacy as a center for advancing the quality of life in Lawndale.
Church ministries continue to support job seekers in the area. They also have programs that provide free food, educational resources, mental health services, and clothing to residents. The church is currently working on vaccination initiatives to alleviate the pandemic, and the congregation is also working on creating a community garden, Johnson said.
“I want to preserve it. We want to preserve our history and demonstrate and show the community that we are invested in our neighborhood, ”said Johnson.
Pascal Sabino is a Report for America Corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.
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