Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Unity Temple received a boost to its restoration efforts last week in the form of a $200,000 grant.

Approaching its 100th anniversary, the temple is crumbling and in need of tender loving care. Back in May, the non-profit Unity Temple Restoration Foundation applied for a $200,000 grant through the federal government.

The foundation received word last week that it’s getting the entire amount requested. The $200,000 is a matching grant, so the non-profit must raise the same amount in the next year to receive those funds.

“We were very happy that we got it on our first try, and that we got the entire amount we asked for,” said Emily Roth, executive director of the foundation.

Unity Temple is one of 40 other restoration projects awarded a total of $10.52 million from the Save America’s Treasures Grant Program. The funds are awarded through a public-private partnership. Grants are managed by the National Park Service through the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The program was started by the Clinton administration in 1999, and is intended to help “conserve significant U.S. cultural and historic treasures,” according to a press release. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House in Chicago won a Save America’s Treasures Grant in 2000, along with more than 500 other projects since the program started.

Unity Temple will use the funds for the repair and restoration of its concrete structure, Roth said. The project would stop the infiltration of water through cracks in the exterior of the building.

The temple has faced other recent challenges after torrential rains last September. Wright did not install expansion joints in the roof when the temple was built, which would allow concrete to freeze without cracking. The flat slabs on either side of the temple’s skylight have been cracking for 100 years, allowing water to seep in, Roth said. Faulty repairs in the past, along with flaws in construction, and the sheer age of the building compound the problem.

“This comes at a great time, and it certainly calls attention to Unity Temple’s urgent need for repair and restoration,” Roth said.

The repairs are part of a $15-20 million restoration campaign outlined in the foundation’s master plan, completed in 2006. They’ve raised another $355,000 to date through two other grants.

Roth hopes to raise the matching $200,000, by Unity Temple’s 100th anniversary. Donations can be made at www.unitytemple-utrf.org.

-Marty Stempniak

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