Buildings with true historic value are a rarity in Northbrook. That is why the Northbrook Historical Society is excited about an amazing opportunity it recently received.
The church located at 1812 Chapel Court (corner of Chapel and Church Street) has been the home of the Christian Science Society since the late 1950s. The structure dates to 1892, when it was built by volunteers and named Hope Union Church.
In mid-January of this year, the Christian Science Society made a stunning offer: The congregation expressed a desire to donate the church to the Northbrook Historical Society for the purpose of preserving the historic building.
After receiving the offer, “I couldn’t sleep that entire night,” said Judy Hughes, President of the Northbrook Historical Society.
Since then, church and Historical Society representatives have been working out the details of an agreement to transfer ownership of the church. A thorough inspection of the 123-year-old building was important, because maintenance and upkeep will be key issues for the Historical Society — an all-volunteer organization with limited funds.
The building appears to be basically in good condition, though items such as a handicap-accessible ramp, rest-room upgrades, air-conditioning adjustments, and so on, are needed. After careful review by both the Historical Society and the Christian Science Society, a contract between the two was signed in early May. A closing date for the transfer will come later in the year.
The Historical Society envisions using the current Sunday School area as a home for its library and archives — a research center with space that is sorely lacking at the Historical Society’s only other building, the Northfield Inn at 1776 Walters Ave. The Inn will remain the home of the Northbrook History Museum and the Historical Society’s consignment store, the Inn Shop.
No major changes would be made to the church’s current sanctuary, which the Historical Society likely would try to rent to a small congregation for use on Sundays. The sanctuary also could be used as a site for weddings.
No zoning changes are needed for the Historical Society to assume ownership of the church. However, in order for the Historical Society to use even a portion of the building as a research area, a special permit from the Village would be required.
Church neighbors on Church Street and Chapel Court have received letters from the Historical Society telling them about an informal meeting at the church on Tuesday, May 19, at 7 p.m., to discuss the future of the church and answer any questions.
Like the Christian Science Society, the major goal of the Historical Society is to preserve the historic building. Perhaps no other current or past structure in Shermerville/Northbrook tells the story of the Village better than Hope Union Church, which was built by volunteers on donated land using donated materials.
The church — which was constructed nine years before the actual incorporation of the Shermerville in 1901 — received its original name because it was envisioned to be the ‘hope’ of the small community and also serve as a “union” of congregations without regard for religious denominations.
Beginning in 1922, the building served as the home of the Presbyterian Church of Shermerville (and then Northbrook) until 1949, when the current Village Presbyterian Church was dedicated just a block north of Hope Union Church. Soon after, Hope Union became the home of St. Giles Episcopal Church for about a decade until St. Giles opened its current church on Walters Avenue just west of Pfingsten Road. The little church on Chapel was dedicated as the First Church of Christ, Scientist, on Dec. 6, 1959, and remained a Christian Science church until that congregation’s last service in the building on April 26, 2015.