To the Editor:
Editor’s note: This letter was written to the Committee on Historic Landmarks and sent as an open letter to several newspapers including the Hyde Park Herald.
This letter is written to voice my opposition to the demolition of the Shrine of Christ the King in Woodlawn, not only because of the Shrine’s beauty and its historical value, but for a technical reason. The Committee’s recently issued demolition permit for the church would seem like a logical decision considering that the Commissioner of the Department of Buildings, had previously determined the building to be dangerous and in need of demolition.
Let me introduce myself. I am a licensed architect in the State of Illinois; hold a master degree in Architecture and Urban Design and am a member of the American Institute of Architects. My entire career has been devoted to the investigation of building failures; my first assignment fresh out of university being the Seattle Dome Collapse many years ago. I take extreme exception to the opinion that the building should be demolished due to the recent fire. It simply is not true.
We know that your decision to issue the demolition permit was based upon Building Department Commissioner, Judith Frydland’s, recent judgment that the building is “imminently dangerous and hazardous and poses a health and safety risk to the public.” This conclusion was based on her interpretation of the structural report prepared by WJE Associates, the architect engineer (AE) firm who was on the site immediately after the fire to do a structural investigation.
I studied, in detail, the WJE Associates Structural Report, and visually inspected the photos and the building. Based upon my street-side, no-access inspection and my years of experience, I fully agree and support the conclusions of the Report by WJE Associates. But I take it one step further, by stating herein, that the church structure, in my best experience, is not in danger of “imminent” collapse and is not unstable.
The decision to find the building “imminently dangerous”, and declare that it “should be demolished,” was based upon a mistaken interpretation of what the WJE Report actually stated.
The WJE structural report did not recommend the building be demolished due to a danger to the public, as a result of the fire. The report, in fact, recommended the opposite; they recommended renovating the church and gave instructions on how to accomplish it, as follows:
a.) Temporary stabilization for the roof framing and masonry walls,
b.) Rebuild the roof structure and roof diaphragm with new roof-to-wall connection detailing to brace the masonry walls and re-establish an adequate load path, or,
“…If the church building is to be demolished…”
c.) Demolish the structure.
The city and the Archdiocese’s mutual decisions were not based upon sound engineering principles and are not supported by the report of the AE firm who was on the site immediately after the fire. Your decision to issue the demolition permit was based upon mistaken information that was given you for your deliberations.
I am asking that the Committee on Chicago Landmarks reevaluate your decision and consider immediately rescinding your demolition permit for the church.
Richard Wallace, AIA