By Grace Kuikman
Imagine driving down Longwood Drive at 103rd Street, and looking up to see, not the iconic Givins Castle on the corner, but a boxy, blah building that could be in anyone’s neighborhood.
It seems unthinkable, but in reality, the fragile limestone with which the castle was built in 1886 has suffered from more than 130 years of Chicago winters. The distinctive crenellated turrets need to be restored, and that will require a variety of historic restoration specialists and approximately $800,000.
A task force of a dozen people from Beverly Unitarian Church, owners of the castle since 1942, and the community are reaching out to the Beverly/Morgan Park neighborhood, the City of Chicago and even federal historic preservation agencies for help in restoring this unique and historically important building.
Early last year, the castle underwent an extensive assessment of the building’s condition by a professional engineering and architecture team. Results revealed cracks and decomposition in the turrets and roof structures. The task force of Castle Keepers invested $25,000 in stabilizing the turrets, but that’s a temporary fix.
When the extent of the damage and daunting amount of funding it will take to rebuild the turrets and save the castle were revealed, the Beverly Unitarian congregation needed to make a difficult decision. For nearly 80 years church members have lovingly maintained the hilltop castle and property, including interior restorations in the 1980s and 1990s. How could a congregation of fewer than 100 members undertake a project that could cost up to $1 million?
True to their heritage as our community’s Castle Keepers, they decided to forge ahead.
Members of Beverly Unitarian Church have pledged $400,000 to the project. “With that wonderful vote of confidence we are moving into the external phase of fundraising to reach our $800,000 goal,” wrote Jean Hardy Robinson, a member of the restoration task force.
Work to restore the castle from the roofline up needs to begin in spring.
Last year, the castle restoration fund was set up to accept donations that will go directly into helping to pay for the critical repair work. The funds are completely separate from church funds, so donors can be confident that 100 percent of their tax-deductible gifts will help save the beloved neighborhood landmark.
Robinson and other members of the castle task force have been researching all angles of this vitally important campaign and volunteering expert experience in areas from project management to fundraising. Spreading the word is an intrinsic part of the plan.
People are available tor presentations on the Castle history and the restoration project for community groups as well as guided tours of the Castle for people interested in learning more about the project.
Friends of the Castle are coming up with creative ideas on how to help. Errol Magidson, author of “Chicago’s Only Castle,” a rich history of the Givins Castle illustrated with dozens of photos, is donating proceeds from the sale of the book to the restoration fund. Books are available at Bookies, 10324 S. Western.
The castle task force is now reaching out for major donations as well as all levels of contributions. People are invited to make donations online at www.givinscastle.org or to call 773-233-7080 for more information.