In 1917, the Lutheran Reformed Evangelical Church built a sanctuary at the corner of Scoville Avenue and Adams Street in Oak Park. The building was a modest clapboard church that was added onto in the 1940s and 1950s. The front stone portion of the church is the later addition, while the original building to the rear of the church now houses five classrooms.
More recently the building has housed the New Spirit Community Church and, facing a smaller congregation, pastor Rev. Bradley Mickelson has listed the church and the mid-century modern-style parsonage next door for sale with Michael Nowicki of Ideal Location-Oak Park RE.
Mickelson points out two interesting facts about the church. Shortly after it was built, the congregation merged with a church in the Austin neighborhood whose claim to fame was a visit from Teddy Roosevelt.
A slightly more spiritual claim to fame shows up in a blue stain on the stone on the front façade of the church. The shape of the Virgin Mary appears outlined in blue. Mickelson said they have tried power washing the stone, but the shape will not wash off and, in fact, becomes more intense every year.
Inside the main sanctuary, there are two original rose windows made of stained glass. Wooden beams support the ceiling.
“I’ve spent a lot of time here, and the more time I spend here, the more I fall in love,” Nowicki said. “It’s like the church you see in those little Christmas villages.”
The rear of the church is the original part of the building and is divided into classrooms. A fellowship hall with a full kitchen and bathroom is on the lower level.
There might not be a lot of comparables on the market for churches, but it is a hot market for interesting real estate. Nowicki points out that the possibilities for this place are numerous.
“We’ve discussed potential uses, and more and more people come to mind,” Nowicki said.
One possible use would be a live-work situation in which part of the building is converted to living quarters, and the rest serves as a home office with its own entrance. The space could also make a one-of-a-kind single-family home with plenty of room for kids to learn and play at home.
Another use would be retrofitting it for multi-family living. A number of churches in recent years have been developed and turned into condominiums or apartments that take advantage of existing soaring ceilings and stained-glass windows.
In Oak Park, the church originally built for the Second Presbyterian Church in 1906 on Ridgeland Avenue was converted to the Mason Loft condominiums in 2003, and Mickelson says there are a lot of churches throughout the country that have been decommissioned and similarly developed.
In Chicago, Jodi Development, working with Ranquist Development, the group behind Oak Park’s District House, recently gutted and renovated the Bethany Presbyterian Church on Humboldt Boulevard.
Now named the Grand Logan Lodge and with a sizable addition, the development houses 15 apartments in two buildings that are joined by a three-story glass lobby. The developers restored the church’s stained-glass windows and kept intact its historic façade.
While church conversions are more common in Chicago, Nowicki sees something similar working well in Oak Park. At over 9,600 square feet and with the ability to add the parcel next door with the parsonage, Nowicki says, “This is such a rare opportunity, but it’s full of endless possibilities.”
The church, located at 542 S. Scoville Ave., is listed for $750,000. Pricing for the parsonage next door is available upon request.