Historic church collapses in Wicker Park

CHICAGO – The old Mission Christiana Church in Wicker Park, a building that dates back to the early 1900's, collapsed Monday morning. The church was vacant and no injuries have been reported.

“It was a horrible sound… [it] shook the entire building,” said neighbor Debbie McHugh.

The fire department arrived on the scene to find the building’s roof collapsed, and several cars parked nearby damaged by the debris.

“We initially conducted an exterior search using our thermal imaging cameras, we were very concerned about secondary collapses because of the stability of the structure,” CFD Dist. Chief Dan Cunningham said.

The church recently sold to a company called Interforum Holdings out of Northfield with plans to convert the property into single-family homes.

Although the building department approved a permit in May for the new owner to start drywall work, the City says they issued a stop-work order on July 5 and a stop work order was issued.
after an inspection showed there was work being done beyond the scope of the initial permit.

But neighbors say the owners didn't listen –and they even called to complain about it.

“They were working on the church for some reason; they were trying to knock it down last week,” said Phil Luparello, who owns a nearby Hollywood Cleaners.

“They've been tearing this thing down literally one brick at a time with a sledgehammer,” McHugh said “We all in the neighborhood have been completely perplexed at how this has gone on.”

City officials said Interforum Holdings is now making arrangements to demolish what's left of the Eastern part of the property, while the rest of the buildings there are under review.