Local Photographer Offers Inside Look At Fifth Church of Christ Scientist

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The Fifth Church of Christ Scientist is a well-known landmark located on the corner of West 117th Street and Lake Avenue, just inside the Cleveland-Lakewood border.

Owned by the city of Cleveland, the vacant church is in a precarious situation with the strip mall next door in the process of total demolition. (Carnegie Companies Inc. will convert the former Gepetto's/Johnny Malloy's into a commercial plaza called the Shoppes on Clifton. The developer has made no request to raze the church, but it's an option up for discussion with city leaders.)

This past weekend, local photographer Christopher Beale, who also works at 102.1 FM on the afternoon show as Kory, got a chance to step inside and capture the reality of a building that may be on its death bed.

His photos are fantastic, contrasting the alluring masonry of the church's exterior with the gloom inside.

I was shocked at the condition of the church, and captured the decay for all to see.

Scene covered the church in a 2010 article about vacant buildings:

HISTORY: West Side Christian Scientists worshiped in this octagonal stone building from 1926 until 1989, when the congregation moved to Rocky River. Riser Foods, which operated the adjacent Rego's grocery store, bought the place in 1991 with the intention of swinging a wrecking ball to clear the way for parking. But neighborhood activists stepped in to prevent the demolition. In 1995, Riser had asbestos removed, along with the building's interior woodwork and other finely crafted details. By 2002, the company determined that demolishing a beloved landmark would not look favorable on its resume, and so the decrepit church was given to Cleveland. Since then, plans have ranged from a bookstore to a produce market to condominiums.

VALUE: $305,000, based on most recent purchase price.

STATE OF DECAY: Boarded up but never well sealed from the elements, it has become a haven for the pigeons that come and go freely, leaving a festive ring of dung beneath the perimeter of the cupola, 65 feet above. Still, the stone bones of the octagonal structure are solid.

WHAT IT'S GOOD FOR: In 2008, a developer determined it couldn't come through with its planned housing and retail project, and gave up dibs on the building. Since then, the city hired an architecture firm to assess immediate structural needs, such as where to put all that pigeon poo.

Architect Volpe believes redevelopment of the empty grocery store next-door and the adjacent parking lot are necessary to accommodate retail uses for the place. "Residential is the best viable option," he says. "Really cool loft units could be developed. The location is fabulous."

The city plans to secure the roof and stop further decay at a price that will cost you, the taxpayer, a mere $200,000. "It's a highly valued neighborhood asset," says Silliman. It's just not valued by anybody with the money to do something about it.

About The Author

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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