Epworth United Methodist Church is one of Edgewater’s hidden historical and architectural treasures. A small group of people began worshiping at 2238 (now 5047) Kenmore Avenue on November 3, 1888. By November 24, 1888, a minister was appointed to the group and, by the following July, the group was organized as Epworth Methodist Episcopal Church. At that time, funds were sought to build the edifice. The original portion of the building was completed by June 28, 1891. Noted Chicago architect Frederick B. Townsend donated his services. The building is believed to be his largest commission. It is a beautiful hybrid of the Richardsonian Romanesque and early Arts and Crafts styles. The church was often referred to as Slocum’s Folly. Mr. L. T. M. Slocum was one of three charter members and was adamant upon having the edifice built in the not yet developed neighborhood .
As Edgewater grew into a thriving community, membership soared and, by the late 1920s, it was decided to expand the building. Under the leadership of Dr. C. C. Travis, papers were signed on April 28, 1929, to expand the building with famed Chicago architects Theilbar and Fugard. The Sanctuary renovation with the Barnes Memorial Organ and the Community House addition was completed and dedicated February 22, 1931.
On 13 October 1935, Sheridan Road UMC was merged with Epworth. This added another layer to the diverse congregation which was already feeling the burden of a huge debt during the Great Depression.
Through the Great Depression, World War II, and the White Flight of the 1960s, Epworth and the entire community came on financial hard times, and church membership began to fall. By the 1980s there was talk of the conference closing the building. However, due to the willingness of a handful and the power of the Almighty, Epworth remained opened. As the Uptown and Edgewater neighborhoods become revitalized, church membership is beginning to climb.
See a full listing of the ministers who have served Epworth during it’s 122 years by clicking Ministers of Epworth Methodist Church.
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