Beth-El Church in the former Sixty Third State Bank on 63rd and Ashland Bank, Englewood. Photo by Martin Gonzalez

Documenting the Past

A look at some of Chicago’s disappearing buildings

It’s fun to shoot old Chicago. I like documenting and seeing the hidden history. So much will be forgotten if we do not photograph the past. When a school, a church, or any building is abandoned, it usually winds up being demolished—by taking pictures we’ll help preserve its history.

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Gatelys, Roseland

I was sad to see the building looking this way because so much of the main shopping district in Roseland is abandoned and disappearing. This neighborhood had so many department stores, restaurants, and other lively places. I bet there used to be many old theaters and bars here. When Gatelys caught on fire, I knew that a link to the past was going to be demolished. I had gone into some parts of the old department store back around 2012, when the parking garage and back area was demolished. I found so many cool items inside: old Gatelys receipts, catalogs, and shopping bags. That Gatelys sign is now gone, no longer a reminder of the good old days.

Masonic Temple, Englewood

The Masonic temple in Englewood, seen from the inside here, has been abandoned for almost thirty years. 

Bontemps Elementary, Englewood

Here’s one of the Chicago schools that closed, along with many others, back in 2013.  This gym was used as a community center for kids to play and hang out, but it now sits abandoned and in decay. 

Woods Academy, Englewood

Another abandoned school, this building still looks nice on the outside and seems usable for the community. As it is now, the old gym sits unused.

Schulze Baking Company, Washington Park

The former Schulze Baking Company building has been vacant for fifteen years. It’s a beautiful terracotta structure, and is in the process of being converted into a data center. I climbed out of the window and got this view of the building.

Schulze Baking Company, Washington Park

 Inside the old Schulze Baking Company building. These old Chicago factories, they’re amazing to walk inside.

63rd and Ashland Bank, Englewood

This was an old bank at 63rd and Ashland. It closed a long time ago and was converted into a church and retail stores. Here’s the old Beth-El church. The best part of documenting this old church was finding the hidden sections of the old bank. Sadly, this building has since been demolished.

Church Meeting Room, 63rd and Ashland Bank

I think this was a meeting room for the old Beth-El church. This room had some amazing old church pictures; it’s sad that so much was left behind.

Pastor’s Room, 63rd and Ashland Bank

This room was the pastor’s main room. There was a nice desk behind the table, old books and pictures, and flags that were part of the Beth-El Nations church.

Upper Level, 63rd and Ashland Bank

This photograph was taken from the upper level of the old bank on 63rd and Ashland. It had an amazing view of the Ashland Green Line stop.

Thrift Store, 63rd and Ashland Bank

This part of the old bank on 63rd and Ashland was last used as a thrift store, but some remnants of the bank remained visible. I really like the tall ceiling and windows here.

63rd and Halsted, Englewood

This building on 63rd and Halsted probably had some amazing stores and offices; it was in the heart of Englewood’s grand old shopping, business, and entertainment district. In 2014, the building caught on fire and was demolished.

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Martin Gonzalez is a documenter of abandoned buildings around Chicago, fascinated by old places and imagining the moments of their past. This is his first piece for the Weekly. More of his photographs can be found on Flickr under the username Nitram242.

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