A small group of eight individuals first organized Grace Evangelical Church in 1904 and decided to build a chapel at the southeast corner of Kimball and Wrightwood Avenues. The modest space facing Kimball was completed in 1905, but the congregation quickly outgrew it and a new building — most of which remains to this day — was completed within five years.
The Economist, a long-gone Chicago real estate and business periodical, announced in June 1909 that prolific Logan Square architect Charles F. Sorensen had prepared plans for a 60-foot by 60-foot church for the congregation. The cornerstone was laid in late 1910, and the structure was completed in the middle of 1911.
In the three short blocks that run along Wrightwood from Logan Square to Kimball there are five church buildings. The other four are:
2612 North Kedzie Boulevard, 1908 and 1912 Christ Norwegian Lutheran Church (now Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church or Minnekirken), designed by Charles F. Sorensen;
3232 West Wrightwood, 1903 Logan Square Norwegian Baptist Church (now residential);
3235 to 3249 West Wrightwood, 1913 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, current building from the 1980s (Spanish-speaking congregation only, English congregation moved 2018); and
3326 West Wrightwood, 1908 1st Immanuel Norwegian-Danish Methodist-Episcopal Church (currently Aloft Circus Arts), designed by Charles F. Sorensen.
That three churches are so close, designed roughly at the same time by the same architect, and yet so dissimilar should serve as a testament to the skill of the Danish-American Sorensen. For Grace Church, he selected the usual grey limestone accents, but used buff-colored brick for the main walls. He also did something else unusual for ecclesiastic works of the time — he chose not to include a tower or steeple.
The building is oriented to Wrightwood and thus directly faces its neighbor. Its façade is stream-lined, which for 1909 was very modern. The arches (1) are smoother when compared to the pointed Gothic arches across the street. There is only one single stained-glass window and thus it dominates the wall. The expanse is only broken up by the small entrance wing, which also extends to the west side.
If one spends time scanning the surfaces they become quite elaborate. The simple changes to the brick (2) and the limestone striping do not distract but enhance. Even the architect’s subtle addition of carved stone medallions (3) are easy to gloss over initially, only to become interesting by themselves once noticed.
Grace Church Today
In the last several years, mounting maintenance and rehabilitation costs have forced the congregation to consider drastic changes. This is a common problem throughout Chicago. Fortunately, the neighborhood and its churches have a resource to look to for help — Logan Square Preservation (LSP).
LSP was able to recruit an anonymous donor who funded the first phase of Grace Church’s rehabilitation work in 2019-2020, which included a rebuilding of the Wrightwood parapet wall and other masonry needs. A second phase of the work plans for the rehabilitation and reuse of the annex.
Grace Church is working with LSP and nearby faith communities to find a productive way to fill the space. One exciting development is the potential to turn it into a long-sought field house for nearby Unity Park in partnership with the Chicago Park District.