Myron H. Church—Edgewater Architect
By LeRoy Blommaert
This is the sixth in a series of articles about architects who designed buildings in Edgewater. The first was J.E.O. Pridmore (Vol. IV, No3, Fall/Winter 1992); the second was Julius H. Huber (Vol. XIV, No3, Summer 2003); the third was Edmund R. Krause (Vol. XVI, No.3,Fall 2005); the fourth was Edward Benson (Vol. XXI, No.3, Winter 2010); and the fifth was Andrew E. Norman (Vol.XXIII, No.2, Summer 2012)
Myron H. Church, like J.E.O. Pridmore, Julius Huber, Edmund R. Krause, and Andrew E. Norman, not only designed buildings in Edgewater; he lived in Edgewater as well, and in his case for most of his professional career as an architect in Chicago.
Myron Henry Church was born October 18, 1852, in Detroit Michigan, the third and last child and second son of Eli M. and Mary A. (Wilson) Church. He was educated in the public schools of Detroit. In January 1873, at the age of 20, he married Julia A. Robinson, in Detroit. She would bear him two sons, Frank Wilson and Walter Samuel (b. 1-6-1879). According to the Book of Chicagoans, 1911, he first worked in the shipyards of the Wyondotte Iron and Ship building works in Detroit before coming to Chicago in 1876 at the age of 24, and then in 1889 establishing himself in practice as an architect. From 1898 through 1900 he was in partnership with C. Frank Jobson. Thereafter he was in private practice.
His first residence in 1877 was 70 Honore. The City Directories show him living at 526 Fulton in 1878 through 1882. For the period 1883 through 1893 they show him living at 329 Walnut (current 2319). Sometime in 1894 he moved into a house at 2679 Kenmore (current 5748) which he designed himself. (The permit was issued in August 1893.) He remained there until he retired. Both of his last two homes have long since been demolished.
Sometime between July 1917 and May 1920, he relocated to Magnolia Springs Alabama, where he presumably retired. (The 1917 City Directory shows him still residing at his home in Edgewater; however the 1920 Census shows him in Magnolia Springs Alabama.)
Myron H. Church died January 17, 1929, in Magnolia Springs Alabama at the age of 76. His wife Julia died 8 years later on September 18, 1937, also in Magnolia Springs. Both are buried in a cemetery outside Magnolia Springs.
The American Contractor database that covers the period 1898 through and including 1912 shows that he designed 41 buildings under his own name of which 18 were in Edgewater and together with partner C. Frank Jobson, an additional 35 of which 28 were in Edgewater, for a total of 76, of which 46 (60%) were in Edgewater. The commissions he did in partnership with Jobson were during a three year period (1898-1900), and of the 28 in Edgewater, 21 were for J. L. Cochran.
In Edgewater his most well-known, and probably most noteworthy as well, is the large single family he designed in December 1909 for Samuel Gunder at 6221 N. Sheridan Road. It was later purchased along with two other homes (one to the immediate north and one to the immediate south) by the Clerics of St. Viators, a Roman Catholic order of brothers and priests. When the order sought to sell the properties in the early 1980s and a developer offered to buy them to tear them down for high rise construction, the community led by the Edgewater Community Council rose in opposition and was first successful in getting the Chicago Park District to purchase the properties for a park and then after another struggle getting the Park District to preserve the two remaining houses and coach houses for community use (the Park District initially planned to tear them down). The Gunder house was restored as a result of a community fund raising effort with major support from the Burger family. Known as the north mansion, the Gunder house was the home of the community-created North Lakeside Cultural Center for 25 years until the close of 2012, when its lease expired and the property reverted to the control of the Park District. The Gunder house, as well as the Zimmerman-designed Downey house to the south, is a City of Chicago landmark as well as on the National Register of Historic Places.
Although the Gunder house is Church’s most well known Edgewater property, it is not the only home he designed on North Sheridan Rd. In total, Church either alone or with his partner Jobson designed at least 15 homes along Sheridan Road of which 3 were for Cochran. Alas, they are all gone.
Besides the Gunder house, Church’s other most noteworthy Edgewater commission that still stands is a group of four double houses he designed in partnership with Jobson in 1898 for J. L. Cochran (three in Lakewood-Balmoral at 5333-35 and 5524-26 Lakewood and 5351-53 Magnolia and one in Edgewater Glen at 1252-54 Norwood). He also designed the parish house for the Episcopal Church of Atonement. It too is still standing; however, his original design has been altered.
Outside Edgewater, Church’s best known commission was for the stations on the first expansion of the South Side Rapid Transit Co’s “L” line, of which the one at 319 E. Garfield Blvd is still standing and is a City of Chicago Landmark.
Sources :Book of Chicagoan, 1911s; Chicago City Directories; Economist: American Contractor; Cook County Recorder of Deeds Tract Books; 1920 Federal Census, Illinois and Cook County Vital Records;
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