Montrose Baptist Church celebrates 100 years
by BRIAN NADIG
Montrose Baptist Church has been at Montrose and Melvina avenues for 100 years.
“It’s always been a small neighborhood church,” Montrose Baptist pastor Jason Platt said. “It’s tucked between two Catholic parishes, Saint Pascal and Saint Robert.”
Between 90 and 100 people attend the morning and evening services on Sundays at the church, 4411 N. Melvina Ave.
Platt said that the “heyday” of the church was around 1950. Membership in the church doubled in the years after World War II, and in the early 1950s the church underwent several improvements, including new pews, tiling the floors and interior painting.
The church was founded in 1917 with cottage prayer services and then the opening of a Sunday school in a portable schoolhouse at the southwest corner of Montrose and Melvina avenues, longtime church member Al Firak said.
“At that time the Northwest Side of Chicago still was largely open countryside which can now only be found many miles away from Metropolitan Chicago. At that time for example, street drainage was done with open ditches rather than through underground sewers in many places,” an essay on the church’s history that Firak updated in 2007 states.
Firak said that the Sunday school eventually moved to a storefront at the northwest corner of the intersection in a building that still exists.
The congregation had a frame building constructed at the northeast corner of the intersection in 1921, and it was used for both prayer services and Sunday school. When the current church was constructed in 1928, the frame structure was moved about a block away and stands today as a house, Firak said.
Montrose Baptist almost merged with the former New Covenant Baptist Church, 5857 W. Giddings St., in the late 1960s, but New Covenant members failed to approve the merger by two votes. At issue was the fact that a decision had been made to use the Montrose Baptist building because it has visibility from a busy street.
“Understandably, not everyone wanted to leave a building (New Covenant) that housed a lot of personal and warm memories,” the history essay states. Firak was part of a group of 30 New Covenant members who decided to join Montrose Baptist despite the failure of the merger.
After a fund-raising effort in the 1970s, members of Montrose Baptist had a multi-purpose building constructed next to the church. The building is used for youth programs, Sunday school classes, bible studies, cub scout and boy scout meetings, and the city’s “Golden Diners Program,” which provides affordable meals for seniors.
In the early 2000s several improvements were made to the church and multi-purpose building, which received air conditioning.
Platt, who has served as the minister of Montrose Baptist for 15 years, said that several anniversary events are being planned for next year.