2023 Donnelley Fund Grant Recipients


Hyde Park Union Church, Chicago

Grant amount: $2,500

Hyde Park Union Church sits on historic Woodlawn Avenue near the University of Chicago campus. The congregation was founded in 1874 by individuals who included founders of the University of Chicago, and the church was closely associated with the University until Rockefeller Chapel was built in 1928. Hyde Park Union Church was completed in 1906, the current sanctuary building was designed by architect James Gamble Rogers and financed by John D. Rockefeller through the American Baptist Education Society. It is a handsome example of the Romanesque Revival style popular in late-19th century Chicago. The massive rockface red Lake Superior sandstone facade is surmounted by a peaked cornice with limestone trim and a Celtic cross, framed by large corner towers.

Since 2021, the congregation has been working with Bauer Latoza Studios and Berglund Construction on a conditions assessment to develop a phased plan for repairs to the social hall, in particular its roof and the damage that roof leaks have caused. Now they wish to turn their attention to a conditions assessment of the church’s sanctuary and develop a phased plan for its repair and restoration.

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Cairo Historical Preservation Project, Inc., Cairo

Grant amount: $2,500

Cairo’s Ward Chapel AME Church was in use for nearly 150 years and was a bustling center of spiritual, social and physical development in the African American community. The congregation ceased operations in 2011, and the building—located in Cairo’s local downtown historic district — has sat vacant ever since. The Cairo Historical Preservation Project, Inc. (TCHPP) hopes to transform the vacant church into a community center and museum. The group will use the Landmarks Illinois grant to hire a consultant to list the church on the National Register, which will open up opportunities for future funding needed to stabilize the building.

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First Immanuel Lutheran Church, Chicago

grant Amount: $2,500

First Immanuel was completed in 1888 at 1124 S Ashland Ave. in the Illinois Medical District neighborhood. It is the second-oldest Lutheran parish in Chicago and was one of the first churches in the city to officially vote to integrate in the 1950s. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke there in 1966. When Chicago was torn by racial strife in the 1960s, people of all races worshiped together at First Immanuel and worked to better the community.

Landmarks Illinois’ grant funding will help the church in its efforts to list the property in the National Register of Historic Places. Such a designation would make the church eligible for larger funding opportunities, which will help with necessary restoration work outlined in a conditions assessment of the building completed in 2021. Landmarks Illinois also awarded the church a Preservation Heritage Fund grant in 2022 for a new boiler.

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Heart Theatre, Effingham

Grant Amount: $2,500

The Heart Theatre is an Art Deco cinema in Effingham that first opened in 1940. It is prominently located across the street from the Effingham County Courthouse on the main town square. While beloved by the community, the building has sat vacant since 2007. Recently, Effingham native Amy Van Bergen purchased the theater and is working with the City of Effingham to rehabilitate the building and determine the best potential future use of it. Landmarks Illinois’ grant funds will go toward conducting a feasibility study on the theater, which will help develop future plans for the property. Once the study is complete, Van Bergen plans to donate the historic property to a local nonprofit to take over management of the building.

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