Despite city snafus, chapel moves across street.
The 68-year-old chapel, which had been used by a funeral home for the past 40 years, was moved across the street to Northlake’s property on October 12.
The move is a homecoming for the chapel. It was built in 1938 on the Northlake property, which was then owned by a Lutheran church. When the Lutherans needed more room in the 1960s they built a larger sanctuary and sold the chapel to the funeral home, which moved it across the street. Northlake bought the Lutheran property in 1995.
The 40-by-60-foot chapel will give the 100-member Northlake congregation room to expand. “We’re running out of space for religious education and this building will allow us to greatly expand our Sunday school offerings,” said Brian Goldstein, a member of the church and one of the parishioners who actively worked to get the chapel. The chapel, which includes a full set of pews and will seat about 150, will also be used for weddings and other functions.
But the move almost didn’t happen. When the congregation learned that the chapel was going to be demolished by developers, it approached the developer, which agreed to donate it to Northlake. The church took out a $425,000 loan to cover the move and the construction of a basement.
But communication broke down with the city during the process of seeking approval. City officials presented the church with a list of expensive requirements, such as street and sidewalk improvements, and church officials decided they cost too much. The congregation decided to withdraw from the project.
It was at that point that a friend of the church, Sue Werner, contacted state and local preservation experts to help get the building certified as eligible for landmark status. She did some historical research and contacted the local news media, all of which carried the story. With the project now in the news, another call to the city resulted in a reopening of the case.
A deal was finally made. The move occurred last Thursday, October 12, and went off without a hitch, said Goldstein. In a four-hour process the chapel was moved across the street and set on a temporary platform in the church's parking lot where it will wait while workers dig out the space for the basement. Then the building will be set onto the basement and the foundation built around it.
Goldstein said one of the lessons he learned in the process of acquiring the chapel is to “talk to as many people as you can who have experience in doing this. Let everyone know what’s going on. Ask advice from professionals who have done this before. And never give up when you believe in something.”
“The project helped Northlake increase its visibility and save a historic building,” added Werner. “And the neighborhood got a voice in a town where development has been running rampant for years. The outcome is truly in keeping with UU values.”
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Donald E. Skinner was the founding editor of the InterConnections newsletter for congregational leaders and a senior editor of UU World from 1998 until his retirement in 2014. He is a member of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa, Kansas.