2021 Donnelley Fund Grant Recipients

Announced June 2021

New Philadelphia Association, Pike County


New Philadelphia was the first town platted and registered (1836) by a black man before the Civil War—Free Frank McWorter, who sold town lots to earn money to purchase children and grandchildren enslaved in Kentucky. It was also a documented stop on the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. The town was dissolved around 1880 but the site was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2009.

In 2015, the New Philadelphia Association worked with a game designer and professor to develop an augmented virtual reality trail for visitors. The program shares history, images and sounds of life in the former town. The association will use Landmarks Illinois’ grant funds to enhance the virtual reality program at the New Philadelphia site to include a question and answer feature.

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Announced January 2021

House of Prayer, Chicago


The congregation will use the grant funding to complete a facility cost estimate for the Central Park Theater, a more than 100-year old former theater in Chicago’s Lawndale neighborhood listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Facility Cost Estimate will be based on the complete building assessment and restoration plan conducted on the building by Wiss, Janney, Elstner, Associates Inc.

The Central Park Theater is arguably one of the most historically important movie houses in the United States. The first Balaban & Katz movie palace in collaboration with the architectural firm of Rapp & Rapp, the Central Park was the model for those that came after. With nearly 1,800 seats, the Central Park opened in 1917 and remained a profitable theater for decades until becoming a church in 1971. Since acquiring the property, the House of Prayer has utilized the theater as a church sanctuary and a venue for special events. Although the congregation has done a noble job keeping the theater intact and maintaining most of its remarkable interior and exterior features, deferred maintenance issues have become overwhelming.

Landmarks Illinois included the theater on its 2015 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois. Landmarks Illinois previously awarded the congregation two Preservation Heritage Fund Grants to help with preservation efforts: A 2005 grant helped pay for the National Register nomination process and a structural assessment. And a 2017 grant went toward  emergency electrical work. Landmarks Illinois’ Skyline Council hosted a volunteer cleanup of the property in 2018, and Landmarks Illinois Director of Advocacy Lisa DiChiera continues to work with the congregation.

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