A historical church that for decades served residents of the now-demolished Cabrini-Green public housing towers is back on the market more than three years after its congregation struck a deal to sell the site for redevelopment.
The Wayman African Methodist Episcopal Church parcel, 2.72 acres on Elm Street, was listed yesterday with an asking price of $2.95 million. The parcel includes a four-story, red brick church—built in 1889 as the First Swedish Baptist Church—and a low-rise midcentury addition, as well as some empty land. The listing suggests both buildings could be demolished.
“Currently there is a church building on the parcel,” according to the listing posted by Robert Waldschmidt and Clifford Perotti of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Chicago, “but highest and best use is to replace it with a more modern residential development.” Waldschmidt said he and Perotti declined to comment.
Immediately across the street from Wayman AME Church are townhomes built in the early 2000s that now sell in the $600,000s. A decade after demolition of the last of the Chicago Housing Authority’s Cabrini-Green high-rises, much of the area has been redeveloped with a shopping center and new homes for renters and buyers, but on some portions of the old site, including blocks west and south of Wayman, progress has been slow and land remains fallow.
In June 2018, the Wayman Church parcel went under contract in just two days on the market with an asking price of $3.25 million.
The listing agent at the time, Angela Pettis of Baird & Warner, said demolition of the church was a near certainty, but that she could not disclose any other details, including the identity of the contracted buyer.
Rev. Thomas Hughes, a regional official of the African Methodist Episcopal Church denomination, which has owned the church since 1920, said in 2018 that the deal might include creating new space for the congregation on the site.
“We’ve been on that spot so long, we would like to stay in the neighborhood, if it’s possible,” Hughes said then.
No further announcements were made on the future of the site, which stretches along Elm Street between Cleveland and Cambridge avenues.
The 2018 deal presumably fell apart, as the property is now back on the market at a lower price. Hughes did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Pettis did not respond to a request for comment, either. Wayman Church’s listed phone number has been disconnected.
The building’s roots reach back to 1853, when the neighborhood, known as Swede Town, had several Swedish churches, including First Swedish Baptist, whose original sanctuary may have been destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire 150 years ago this week.
The Swedish Baptists completed the present church building in 1889; it’s not clear whether they they transferred it to the AME church in 1920, or if there was another inhabitant between the two congregations.
For several decades, Wayman AME was a spiritual haven for Black residents of Cabrini-Green, which was built in stages from the early 1940s through the early 1960s.
In the early 1990s, Wayman AME was part of the backdrop of one of Cabrini-Green’s most horrific incidents: On Oct. 13, 1992, bullets fired by a sniper in a building just north of Wayman AME rocketed past the church before killing 7-year-old Dantrell Davis, who was holding his mother’s hand as he crossed Cleveland Avenue a short distance south of the church.
Davis was the third Jenner Elementary School student killed that year. His death was one of the events that galvanized the city’s Plan for Transformation, announced in the late 1990s, which included tearing down the Cabrini-Green high-rises.
A new Jenner building opened across the street from Wayman in 2004. Since 2018, it’s been a campus of the Chicago Public Schools’ Ogden International School.