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Storm dents church that survived Chicago Fire

DMitchell Department Buildings views damage First Baptist Congregational Church 1613 W. WashingtBlvd.  Friday. The church sustained rostructural damage from

Don Mitchell of the Department of Buildings views the damage at the First Baptist Congregational Church, 1613 W. Washington Blvd., on Friday. The church sustained roof and structural damage from the winter storm earlier in the week. | John J. Kim~Sun-Tim

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Updated: March 6, 2011 12:20AM

The historic Near West Side church survived the Chicago Fire, great gusts of wind that once pummeled its stained glass windows and now, the Blizzard of ’11.

But high winds and violent snow blasts did collapse the roof of the First Baptist Congregational Church Tuesday night, sending a Gothic style tower crashing into the church’s balcony, vestibule and front entrance.

Now, the Rev. George Daniels and his 1,000 parishioners are left with the damages, which he estimates at hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Designated a Chicago Historic Landmark in 1982 and a National Historic Landmark in 2006, the church at Washington and Ashland is lined with Lemont limestone. It survived the Chicago Fire of 1871 and was a temporary home to City Council meetings as the city coped with the massive destruction the historic fire left behind.

Nearby buildings, made of wood, were reduced to nothing, but “the mass of stone survived,” Daniels said.

It’s also home to the Kimball pipe organ, donated in 1927 by pineapple entrepreneur Andrew R. Dole and his family at a cost of $125,000. It’s the largest organ Kimball ever made — so big nearby streets were closed to traffic as workers brought the massive instrument in, Daniels said.

One of six chambers of that organ, last valued at $1.2 million, also sustained damage in the storm, he said.

“141 years, built in 1869,” Daniels said. “This church has been through a lot.”

The church is a survivor, he said Friday. And the reverend says he’ll hold services at the Hope Institute charter school auditorium across the street Sunday to prove it.

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