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Activists Trying To Save 100-Year-Old Synagogue On West Side

CHICAGO (CBS) -- An historic West Side synagogue has been from the wrecking ball for at least one more day.

Organizers hoping to stay the demolition of the building at 3411 W. Douglas Blvd. in the Lawndale neighborhood will have a hearing in demolition court Wednesday.

Seth Barnhart lives about seven blocks away from the corner of Homan Avenue and Douglas Boulevard -- where plastic bags and other garbage blow in the wind, in front of the Shepherd's Temple Baptist Church.

"Chicago touts its architecture at every corner. The skyscrapers were first built here. We named our windows Chicago, we named our bricks Chicago," Barnhart says. "Chicago is a hypocrite. We profess our love for buildings yet systematically ignore the buildings not downtown."

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's Brandis Friedman reports


Barnhart is among a handful of residents and activists who stood in front of the 100-year-old building Tuesday, pleading with the city not to tear it down -- and pleading with community members to help raise money to keep it standing.

"It's not about a building, it's about people," said Tracy Bartlett, with the Abundant Life Church, which bought the building five years ago. "We're here to participate with the community and those who want to join us in changing this community and be an asset to Chicago."

Last year, the city condemned the building, which was originally the Anshe Kanesses Israel Synagogue.

Today, it bears markings of both the Jewish and Baptist faiths.

Activist and architect Carey Wintergreen says the old memorial tablets that he just found there this weekend show just part of the building's significance.

"Tablets, which on top, in Hebrew, say this is 'for life everlasting,'" he said. "Had we not discovered them and pulled them out, potentially they could be dust by next week."

He says the building, if spared, could be used as a cultural center, an after school program or job training.

It's also one of few places where Martin Luther King could speak in Chicago. Wintergreen says the building could also serve as a museum to King.

The neighborhood group, the Lawndale Alliance, also has a petition of over 600 signatures.

The building was built in 1913 by the Anshe Kanesses Israel Synagogue Congregation.

When the congregation moved, the Friendship Baptist Church began having services there in 1962. It left in the early 80's.

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