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Work begins to rebuild roof of historic Woodlawn church gutted by 2015 fire

Work started Friday to install new roof trusses at Shrine of Christ the King, 6401 S. Woodlawn Ave., which is being restored after it was gutted by fire in October 2015. | Erin Brown/Sun-Times

Church and preservation officials gathered Friday at the site of a historic Woodlawn church nearly destroyed by a fire in October 2015.

The massive, ornate limestone structure at 6401 S. Woodlawn Ave. has been known as St. Gelasius and St. Clara over the years. Eventually, it was occupied by the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, a religious order based in Italy. The Archdiocese of Chicago retained ownership — until the fire, that is.

After that blaze, the Institute took ownership when the Archdiocese decided it could not afford the repairs, estimated in early 2016 to be about $9 million.

Friday, the Rev. Canon Matthew Talarico of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest was celebrating a clear sign of progress: the start of work to install the massive roof trusses. The roof should be finished in June, Rev. Talarico said. After that, it is on to Phase 2 — the interior work, estimated to cost $3 million to $5 million, he said.

“Today is only possible because of the great teamwork of so many people,” Rev. Talarico said.

Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, called the building “a fabulous structure that is so much a part of Woodlawn.”

And Bonnie McDonald of Landmarks Illinois declared: “Preservation is really about people. This is a place that matters to people here as well as across the country. Their coming together brought this phoenix back from the ashes — literally.”

Contributing: Erin Brown