The signboard outside Parkview Presbyterian Church has no affirmations, no exhortations, no welcoming message. After 161 years of ministry the congregation held its last service at Oak Park Avenue and Jackson Blvd. at the end of October and is now closed.
That faith community leaves a legacy which goes back to 1860 when a predecessor congregation was founded in a Chicago storefront at the corner of Van Buren and Third Avenue.
According to an “historical sketch” written in 1925 for the dedication of the newly constructed Oak Park building, in 1924 the congregation in Chicago known as the First United Presbyterian Church of Chicago moved west to Oak Park and “formed a union” with the Oak Park United Presbyterian Church.
The legacy they leave is one of serving the needs of the community. In 1871 their church building served as a “benevolence distribution center” in the wake of the Great Chicago Fire. The “historical sketch” by an anonymous author in 1925 recalled, “The church was one of the few to open its doors for the relief of the destitute, the first floor of the building being turned into a storeroom, and sleeping quarters fitted up for those made homeless by the great fire.”
Up until their final worship service last month, members were involved in outreach to the community.
Ken Hockenberry, interim business manager at the Presbytery of Chicago, said the congregation’s legacy will reach into the future as well as the past, because some of the proceeds from the eventual sale of the building will go into what they call the Salary Supplement Fund which uses “70% of the net sales from closed/dissolved church properties to support other churches in their effort to keep a full time pastor and to support community mission groups and projects.”
Another part of the legacy the congregation leaves behind is architectural. Whatever ministry or developer that purchases the building, the sale of which is being handled by the Presbytery of Chicago, will become stewards of an Oak Park landmark.
The building completed in 1925 was designed by E.E. Roberts and his son Elmer. According to Prairiestyles.com, one or both of them designed an addition to the high school and over 200 homes in Oak Park.
A financial statement for the new building reports that the fees for the architect and general contractor were $93,758 and that the furnishings including a pipe organ were purchased for $16,000.
The congregation’s membership had shrunk to just 28 members according to statistics released by the Presbytery of Chicago.