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November 5, 2010

U of C begins removal of CTS stained glass

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Multiple stained glass windows were removed last week from the 5757 South University Avenue building that currently houses the Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS) and Seminary Co-op Bookstore.

The glass will be incorporated into CTS’s new building, under construction south of the Midway at East 60th Street and South Dorchester Avenue, a stipulation included in the sale of the building to the University.

The removal of the several large stained glass windows is the first physical step of the University’s “adaptive reuse” plan to renovate the 5757 South University building in order to house the Milton Friedman Institute for Research in Economics (MFIRE), a plan that has drawn flak from Hyde Parkers for devastating a beautifully ornate building with a rich history.

Jack Spicer, resident of Hyde Park and president of the Preservation Chicago organization, said the windows, along with the furniture, are integral parts of the building and should not be altered.

“The windows were designed specifically for that building, and structurally they were included in the building. They were not just screwed on. They are literally cemented in. So either you do damage to the window, or to the building,” he said.

“As soon as you start removing them, it’s like removing the nose from the Mona Lisa or something. It’s all meant to go together.”

According to an e-mail sent by Spicer to other community members earlier this week, five windows have been removed from the building’s south side, except for two bottom panels, and three windows have been removed from the north side, aside from one bottom panel.

Spicer raised concerns that the University moved forward on its plans for transforming the building from a seminary to an economics center without addressing the historical value of the building as an ecclesiastical space. “Why was it essentially an a priori decision? The next question, of course, is who made that decision? The rationale given is that the windows are ‘inappropriate’ to the new use of the building, and why is that so?”

At a meeting in October, in which the University presented the firm that will renovate the building, administrators wouldn’t say whether the windows, furniture, and other Christian iconography that CTS leaves behind will remain, postponing that decision.

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