Sunday, June 30, 2013

Chloe

Walking to the Brown Line Station each Sunday after visiting my mother, I walk by a back yard that has its long side open to the street behind a chain link fence.  Sometimes, in the green lawned spring or frigid snow of winter, I would see a small dog in that yard.  Unlike pretty much any other dog I've ever encountered, it would never bark.  Year after year, never.  Once or twice  she'd come closer to the fence when I said hello.  Sometimes she'd cast a quick glance at me from what I saw as sad eyes.  I wondered, not too deeply, about her life, and about the people who owned her, and whether her subdued presence spoke of a less than happy life.

And then a couple weeks ago I found on the fence what you see in the above photo.

There is so much cruelty in the world.  Behind every unknown door, down avoided streets, across the hidden half of the world, you feel cruelty lurking, the common currency supporting so many of the thoughtless pleasures of our comfortable everyday lives.  Cruelty, just beneath the surface, easily unseen.

I admit that is what I thought of, what I feared, when I saw the little dog alone in the yard.  And so, when I saw gentle Chloe's memorial, and the kind inscriptions from neighbors, I felt shame.  Even more, I felt a sadness.  A sadness for Chloe's passing, and for slighting the possibility that the answer to a mystery could still be love.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

As James Turrell transforms Wright's Guggenheim, a look at his Chicago Skyspace

Well, here's another great show I'll never get to.
photo courtesy Guggenheim Museum, ©David Heald
The Guggenheim Museum in New York has turned its iconic, Frank Lloyd Wright designed spaces over to James Turrell, and the artist has transformed them with spectacular installations of color and light.  The continuous ramp rotunda has become Aten Reign,  described by The New Yorker's Peter Schjeldahl as “six evenly spaced, concentric ovoid rings, smoothly clad in white plastic” which increase in size, from the rotunda's skylight almost down to the floor. “An orchestration of slowly shifting colored light, from unseen L.E.D. fixtures between the rings, suffuses the atmosphere with one ravishing playoff another another: breathable beauty.”
I really need to figure out a way to get away more, but since, for the moment, it's not possible, I have to settle for being put in mind of Chicago's own James Turrell work, Skyspace, which opened at Roosevelt and Halsted in 2006.  Turrell was on hand for the dedication, which we wrote about here.  It's a 43-foot-in diameter pavilion, with a 26-foot high ceiling pierced by a central oculus designed to create the illusion of “celestial vaulting - the illusion, when viewing the sky without a horizon line, that the sky is aligned with the plane of the ceiling.”
What makes Skyspace distinctive is how, try as it might, it's not an entirely controlled space.  The setting, a juncture of urban formation, keeps insinuating itself inside.

Next door to the west is the St. Francis of Assisi Church, dating from 1875.
The spiritual qualities inherent in Skyspace finds a counterpoint in the church rituals that spill over onto the Earl Neal plaza in which Skyspace is placed.  
Skyspace finds itself mediating between a working class neighborhood that has been largely effaced, and the great urban machine that has superseded it, the relentlessly expanding presence of the University of Illinois's Chicago campus.

More next weekend.
James Turrell runs at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, through September 25. 

Read:

A James Turrell Skyspace Comes to a Very Different Maxwell Street






Friday, June 28, 2013

Thursday, June 27, 2013

James and Mary: Two Contrasting, Cautionary Tales of the Spirit of the City

click images for larger view
Birth, growth, decline, death, purgatory, resurrection - or not.  Two very similar stories; two very different outcomes.

Even as the Chicago Archdiocese is about to set the bulldozers loose to destroy the even more historic 1880's St. James Church at 2942 South Wabash, the story of St. Mary of the Angels Church illustrates that with a more enlightened leadership, it doesn't have to be that way.  Friends of Historic St. James Church, the hardy band of parishioners and preservationists who mounted a spirited campaign to save St. James, appear to have lost out to Francis Cardinal George's determination to destroy the building, despite offers of a million dollars of in-kind services to save it.
Like St. James, St. Mary of the Angels had a history worth saving.  The parish was originally created to ease overcrowding at nearby St. Stanislaus Koska.  Two city blocks - 86 lots - were acquired for $60,000.  One was reserved for the church, the other subdivided for housing. In 1899, a small combined church and school opened, designed by noted ecclesiastical architect Henry Schlacks.
The congregation continued its rapid growth, and by 1909, St. Mary's first pastor, Rev. Francis Gordon began thinking about a larger church.  Designed by Worthmann and Steinbach, it was modeled after St. Peter's in Rome, and its Baroque elegance sought to recall Poland's Golden Age, before it was wiped off the map as a nation, partitioned and occupied by three European powers.

Work began on September 28, 1911, but the outbreak of World I and resulting materials shortages delayed construction.  The resolve remained.  According to Denis Robert McNamara's book Heavenly City: The Architectural Tradition of Catholic Chicago, the new church was intended as a testament to “a belief in the Resurrection of Christ and the firm conviction that Poland would be restored.”  And they were rewarded.  By the time St. Mary of the Angels was finally dedicated in 1920, the victorious allies had again made Poland, for the first time in centuries, a sovereign nation.

And then the  construction of the Kennedy Expressway replayed the issue of partition by slicing up the community and destroying many parishioner' homes.  When the superhighway opened in 1960, it became the conduit drawing many residents out of the city and away from the now mutilated fabric of their abandoned neighborhood.  From a high of 1,600 families and 1,200 students, the parish declined, until it was closed in 1988, citing  - sound familiar? - dwindling membership and prohibitive repair costs as mandating the building's demolition.  As has been the case at St. James, the announcement evoked an uproar, and an energetic campaign to reverse St. Mary of the Angels' death warrant.
It must have been a gentler time.  The Archdiocese's real estate operation was, always, indifferent, but it would be made to yield when those struggling to save the church found an ally in Joseph Cardinal Bernadin, who requested the Prelature of Opus Dei to assume responsibility for the historic building, which they did in 1991, beginning an extensive restoration, first with the dome, and then, in 1997, with the interior.

A Save the Dome campaign placed signs on that dome making its website url visible throughout the community. The cost of the repairs was estimated at $3.2 million, with $900,000 listed as raised.  This has evolved into a Restore God's House Campaign.  In addition to dome repair and renovating the south tower, it includes rebuilding the east parapet wall, which was dismantled for safety reasons in 1991, the elements all carefully put into storage.
The church gets its name from the 26 angels placed along the exterior.  My understanding is that these are not the originals, and the fact that they all seem to be identical gives the composition a certain Dolly-like quality that's not entirely reassuring.

While certain economies were taken in the execution of the exterior, there's still the grand entryway on Hermitage . . .

and well as cherubs . . .

and terra cotta ornament . . .
culminating in the papal coat-of-arms . . .
The true glory of St. Mary of the Angels is its interior, including elaborate decoration added by artist John A. Mallin in the 1940's.
© 2009, Jeremy Atherton, Wikipedia Creative Commons
 The sanctuary has just been documented in a stunning set of photographs by Chris Smith on the Out of Chicago website.  And now I know the trick to getting those photographs with the great vantage points.  Help change the light bulbs.

Or at least that's what worked for Smith.  What he intended as a pop-in shoot wound of being an all-day event.  After helping out changing the bulbs in the chandeliers 30 feet above the floor, he got access to the balcony - and then everyone went out for Chinese buffet.  Check out Chris Smith's great photo portrait of the sanctuary here.

While nothing is ever certain in our increasingly secular world, St. Mary's of the Angels now seems to have a future.  Attendance at services has grown.  The nuns are long gone from the Sisters of the Resurrection convent constructed across from the church in 1905 . . .
. . .  but they've now been replaced by the young professionals who continue to gentrify the Bucktown neighborhood - the building was recently been redeveloped as condos.

 You see the same thing happening on the Near South Side.  I was impressed walking down to Second Presbyterian Church  last week how the stretch of Michigan down to 19th street now seemed an almost continuous procession of loft conversions, new residential towers, bars, trendy restaurants and all the other accoutrement's of an economically revived neighborhood.

Continuing north, just south of St. James, at 2942 South Wabash, you can see similar signs of change in the Motor Row district on Michigan that the city is intent on making a major music and arts district that will draw in both Chicago residents and all those conventioneers looking for something to do while lodged in one of the thousands of new hotel rooms McPier is constructing off of Cermak Road.

The Archdiocese, of course, can't see it.  On Wednesday, lest anyone doubt its determination - and power - it punched a huge hole in the roof of St. James, and then, statement made, sent the wrecking crews home.  According to a report in the Trib by Ron Grossman, its spokesman declined to say when demolition would resume.
St. James interior, photograph courtesy David Schalliol
For the Chicago archdiocese, gazing into eternity - no problem.  Looking a few decades down the road, not so much.  If the Archdiocese had had their way, St. Gelasius and Holy Family would today be little more than parking lots and memories.  The announcement of their impending demolition, as at St. James, also evoked outrage and activism, but a more receptive Archdiocese listened, and agreed to alternatives that have made churches anchors of revival in their communities.  
St. Gelasius
Because the Archdiocese declined to demolish Old St. Patrick's when it was down to serving a mere handful of families, today it's a thriving center of the booming West Loop.  This weekend, Old St. Pat's will welcome 18,000 people to it's annual ‘World's Largest Block Party’ fundraiser.  [The first 500 people to arrive in Chicago Blackhawks wear will get an additional drink ticket - now, there's a church even an agnostic can love.)

The Archdiocese would have you believe that the spirit of devotion generations of immigrants built with their sacrifices into the beautiful churches that expressed their faith vanishes from the building the moment it's deemed a real estate problem.  Yet that spirit remains infused in the structure.  It has not vanished; it is deliberately destroyed and discarded as a matter of choice.

When a city destroys its architectural heritage, it consumes itself, and denatures its future.



Read More:

Will 130 years of history and faith be destroyed?  Friends of Historic St. James rally to forestall wrecking ball.

Parishioners, Preservationists hold Vigil to Save St. James Church as Developer offers to do Rehab for the $5 million Archdiocese has earmarked for new church.

Heavens to Purgatory: Imploding Churches Flatten Chicago

Chicago Jewel Unhidden: Inside Howard van Doren Shaw's spectacular Second Presbyterian Church, now a Historic Landmark

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Where if Not Us? - Participatory Design and Its Radical Approaches opens at the Graham with reception and discussion - more for June

I'm pretty sure these will be the last additions for June Calendar of Chicago Architecture Events, but the Graham Foundation is opening a new exhibition, Where if Not Us? - Participatory Design and its Radical Approaches, with a reception this Thursday the 27th,  and a public discussion Participatory Design and its Radical Approaches, on Friday with Mathias Heyden and Ines Schaber, as well as Roberta Feldman, Landon Bone Baker Architects and Henry Sanoff.


Thursday is one of those log-jam days, with a special Chicago Commission Landmarks rubber stamp session on Wrigley Field in the morning, and in the evening, in addition to the reception at the Graham, the opening the Illinois State Preservation Conference, an AIA/Chicago tour of the Joyce Foundation's new offices, The Green Office Challenge at the Center for Green Technology, Marshall Brown and Geof Oppenheimer discussing Architecture, Power and the Urban Imaginary; a signing and reception for the new book Evanston: 150 Years, 150 Places, and Carolyn Armenta Davis discussing The Art of Architecture: Today's African-American, Afro-European and African Architects at the Woodson Regional Library.


Even with only 5 days left, there are still well over dozen great items still to check out on the June Calendar of Chicago Architecture Events.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Infinite Curve: Viñoly's Chapel at the U of C Center for Care and Discovery

When we wrote about the new Logan Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Chicago at the time of its opening last fall, we included this view towards of Rafael Viñoly's Center for Care and Discovery, the $700 million, 240 bed hospital whose massive bulk looming over the U of C campus we described as looking “like a beached ocean liner”.
click images for larger view
In Viñoly's defense, he was working with the University's program, which stressed the kind of supply-chain empire-building that is a dominant force of our time in general and in health care in particular.  As I learned from a generous and informative tour from Viñoly Architects Project Manager Joe Cliggott earlier this month, Viñoly's exterior design incorporatea a number of features to break up the monolithic quality, as well as a highly creative approach to making the hospital experience more - well, hospitable - for care givers, patients, and visitors alike.  I hope to cover these in more detail in a later post. (And also the new Carol Ross Barney daycare center you can glimpse in the bottom right of the photo below.)
While during my tour I learned any number of things that impressed me, today I want to take a look at the one feature that surprised me, and in a very positive way.  It's the chapel on the seventh floor ‘Garden’, the sky lobby encompassing waiting and support rooms for visitors, which are not only gracious, but provide some of the most spectacular views in Chicago.
The chapel is a counterpoint to so much of the rest the design.  In the larger design, the right angle, save for rounded columns, predominates, relentlessly.  In contrast, in the chapel, the right angle is banished, even in its expression on the exterior of the building.
The wall facing the lobby curves.  The entrance door is not immediately apparent.  You look at the wall and place your bets, but you know immediately when you find it, by the feel on your hand of the thin, hidden strip of metal near the edge, whose cool, smooth texture is a shock to the touch compared to the texture and temperature of the otherwise omnipresent wood.  The cherry wood veneer is in striking contrast to the celebration of metal, glass, and applied color in the rest of the hospital.
Once you enter the chapel and close the door behind you, you are in interfaith room completely unmarked by any religious imagery.  The objects - whether they be sacred or seating - required by individual religions are stored behind another hidden door in a small closet that bumps into the room as if stretching the unbroken banding of wood.  Above that wood, a band of white wall and a narrow continuous strip of clerestory windows wraps around the top of the room.
There are no right angles in this room.  If you can imagine away the rude but code-required Exit sign, it's as if you find yourself in  a space where you don't how you got there, or how you'll get out.  The acoustic seal creates one of those places where you actually ‘hear’ the silence.  Occasional sounds from the lobby filter in, muffled and distant, as if you're hearing them underwater.  Although the placement of the closet ‘bump‘ subtly demarcates a visual focus towards the ‘alter‘ area, the chapel, ultimately, is an ever continuous space.  No beginning.  No end.  It just ‘is’.  A sanctuary, filled from above with celestial light.  A glimpse of eternity, claustrophobic, until you give yourself over to its serenity.
In alternating succession, the experience of Viñoly's chapel can be both unsettling and comforting.  I like this space.

Read Also:

Rafael Viñoly talks Wright, new hospital, at the Logan Center for the Arts

Monday, June 24, 2013

Googleplex comes to Fulton Market

click images for larger view
This how functioning cities evolve.
rendering courtesy Sterling Bay
Crain's Real Estate Daily reported last week that Google is consolidating its Chicago office space, much of it at a Perkins+Will building at 20 West Kinzie, into 1KFulton (will the move come with renaming rights?), the former Fulton Cold Storage warehouse that has been stripped down to its bare bones awaiting the new facades of a Hartshorne Plunkard-designed retrofit.  The developer, Sterling Bay, is proving itself one of the most adapt practitioners in Chicago right now, with the Google catch coming off Sterling Bay doubling its investment in little more than a year at 400 South Jefferson, the former lithographers loft building in the West Loop that, like Fulton Cold Storage, was stripped to its concrete frame and given new, more open facades as the headquarters of Hillshire Brands, the Sara Lee spin-off that returned to Chicago after a decades-long sojourn in the suburbs.
1K Fulton (Work. Eat. Chill. says their website)  is the centerpiece of a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood marked by former lofts converted to residential and boutique hotels, and former industrial buildings to upscale restaurants, shops, and art galleries.  Which, in turn, will eventually be replaced by Gap stores and Starbucks when the transition fully matures.
The sea change already has its own lighthouse in the stunning new Ross Barney-designed Green Line station at Morgan Street.
As you can see in the photos at the top of this post, the last vestige of 1KFulton's historic identity - the huge sign on the tower - has now been stripped away along with the brick on which it was painted.  The Google move could be a game-changer, making Fulton Market a high-tech hub.  Is it only a matter of time before the last meat packing, fish mongering and food processing businesses are completely crowded out and effaced from the district that they gave its name?  In an increasingly virtual world, the actual retreats.

Read More:

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Chicago Legends George Wendt and Joe Mantegna on Architecture and saving the Hull House Theater

“Not only is Chicago theater well-regarded, well renowned, obviously Chicago architecture is well regarded and well renowned.  Crombie Taylor is a noted theater architect worthy of being preserved, just on the basis of the architectural value.  We've all seen that coffee table book, Lost Chicago, and this would be another piece of Lost Chicago if we don't get these folks to change their mind and save a little culture . . . ”
That was George Wendt talking about the Hull House Theater in Uptown.  Along with another legendary Chicago actor, Joe Mantegna, he had been recruited by former Organic Theater director social service association founded by Jane Addams in 1889.
Stuart Gorden to come to Chicago and run a gauntlet of media interviews - including the one you see here -  in support of the Consortium to Save Hull House Theater.  The group is mounting a last-ditch campaign to keep the historic Uptown venue from being converted into apartments by its new owner, developer Dave Gassman.  Gassman bought the property for $1 million in May, a year after it had fallen into foreclosure after the bankruptcy and abrupt  liquidation of the last remaining vestiges of the

“It's kind of like a church in a way, ” says Mantegna, “because it's a living, breathing thing, because of the activity that happens within it.  When we used it for the Organic Theater, this space on Beacon Street, here was this beautiful, jewel box kind of a theater.”

It was 1966 when the Hull House Theatre moved into the new Hull House Association building at 4520 North Beacon Street in Uptown, designed by architect Crombie Taylor.  The innovative 144-seat arena-styled theater sits in the basement of the 16,000 square-foot structure, and is currently the home to Pegasus Players under a lease that runs through 2014.  Although perhaps best remembered as a Louis Sullivan scholar who was instrumental in saving and restoring the Auditorium Theater Building, Taylor's own work was “celebrated for their simplicity and elegance, with the Hull House theater “known for its unobstructed views, perfect acoustics and intimate experience. It is widely considered one of the best designed theaters in Chicago.”

The Hull House became one of the early flash points for the exploding Chicago theater scene, first under the direction of Bob Sickinger, and then when it became home to Stuart and Carolyn Purdy Gordon's Organic Theater Company, the adventurous ensemble whose artistic roster included Joe Mantegna, Dennis Franz and Meschach Taylor, and whose productions included the world premiere of David Mamet's Sexual Perversity in Chicago.  The Organic's production of Mantegna's Bleacher Bums, which followed  the interactions of a group of fans watching a Chicago Cubs game, was a breakout hit - running for two years in Chicago and 13 in L.A. -  and was adapted for PBS.

“I think,” recalled Mantegna, “that Stuart [Gordon] discovered this theater existed in this Hull House on Beacon Street in Uptown and here was this beautiful space.  The look of it was not typical.  It was not the traditional kind of proscenium.  This was a kind of arena setup, where the stage is down the floor and the seating goes up like this.  Years later, it led itself perfectly to create the world premiere of Bleacher Bums, because we had no money to do sets for the play.  So we came upon the idea, if we take seats out of one section - just remove the seats - now the concrete risers become the bleachers.  We acted in that section of the theater on the concrete risers.  The audience sat on the stage in folding chairs and in the remaining seats in the arena.  It was a case where the flexibility of the space helped create a show.”

Hull House's longest-running tenant was Jackie Taylor's Black Ensemble Theater, which made the house their home for 24 years until moving to their own theater in 2011.

The Consortium to save the theater was quickly mobilized after Gassman's plans for the property became known last month, and its membership consists of “artists including Joe Mantegna, Jim Belushi, George Wendt, Jim Jacobs, William H. Macy, William Petersen, Robert Falls, Marilu Henner, Jackie Taylor and Stuart Gordon, as well as members of Preservation Chicago and local business leaders.”  A Change.org petition in favor saving the theater quickly attained over 1,800 signatures, including playwright Jeffrey Sweet and Redmoon Theater's Jim Lasko.

Said Wendt, “Stuart Gordon has been a colleague of Joe's and mine for decades, and he was the one who alerted us to the issue and that's how we got roped into it.  We feel it's a worthy cause to be roped into.”

With 46th Alderman James Cappleman and the Beacon Street Block Club in his corner, Gassman's initial response was not encouraging.  Claiming that for the 47 years since its founding, the Hull House Theater is, and always has been, illegal, violating zoning regulations, Gassman told DNAinfo Chicago he “. . . would tell anyone who doesn't like it.  Don't live in America. That's how it works.”  He said he was making a proposal to Pegasus to buy out their lease.

However, when the necessary zoning change came before the City Council Zoning Committee on June 11, after hearing the Consortium make its case, the vote was rescheduled until this coming Tuesday, June 25th, with Cappleman saying it was to allow more time for the Consortium to try to change Gassman's mind and/or come up with a proposal to buy the building from him.

When I asked Mantegna about the idea that historic buildings in some way encapsulate the spirit of a city over time, I got a very philosophical response.

“I don't want to get into a long dissertation about this, but the whole thing is that my belief system is based on the fact that the difference between somebody who's alive and somebody's who's dead is energy.  And Einstein said energy can't be created or destroyed.  So therefore, when you die, where did it go? That thing, the Lifeforce, whatever it is that makes you alive -the soul, whatever you want to call it, that's that thing.  The thing that makes us sitting here talking and being alive, and the difference from if the three of us were dead right now, is that energy, and if can't be destroyed, and that's a proven thing, that you can't destroy energy, where did it go?

“And it could manifest itself in grace,” added Wendt, getting back to the main message.  “And I think David Gassman has a chance to do the graceful thing here and preserve a theater.”

Joe Mantegna and George Wendt has a lot more to say about Chicago and its architecture.  Check out the rest of the conversation, after the break.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Chicago Jewel Unhidden: Inside Shaw's spectacular Second Presbyterian Church, now a National Historic Landmark

click images for larger view
In a ceremony complete with organ and brass fanfares resonating in the reverberant sanctuary, Chicago's Second Presbyterian Church Thursday evening unveiled the plaque for its designation as a National Historic Landmark.  (Ironically, it's awaiting pro forma approval from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks - it was designated in 1977 - before mounting the plaque on the building's exterior.)

The 1874 church,  with a new interior by Howard van Doren Shaw created after a disastrous 1900 fire, goes from a class of 80,000 in its previous listing on the National Register of Historic Places to a far more elite group of 2,500 National Historic Landmarks.  “Second Presbyterian is the only church in Chicago to receive this distinction,” noted Linda P. Miller, President of Friends of Historic Second Church, a volunteer organization that works both to support and publicize the structure.
Interim Pastor Dr. David M. Neff; Linda P. Miller, left
It's only appropriate, as Second Presbyterian, at 19th and Michigan, was born out of elitism.  It was the church of the Chicago's 1%, just blocks away from the Prairie Avenue mansions of the likes of Pullman and Glessner.  It was after the death of meatpacker George Armour that the church's two-ton bell- in use to this day - and its tower were funded by his family.
from the designation report
It was the wealth of the congregation that accounts for the splendor of Second Presbyterian's interior.  After fire raged through the church in 1900, noted Chicago architect Howard van Doren Shaw, also a member, was brought in to repair the exterior and replace the gutted interior, no expense spared.  Shaw made the church more intimate in scale by lowering the ceiling, the clerestory windows and the proscenium. He rejected Renwick's Gothic style for that of the emerging British Arts and Craft movement, giving it a distinctively American spin.  The composition is dominated by Frederic Clay Bartlett's 30-foot tall, 40-foot wide, Tree of Life mural, from 1903, painted directly onto the cured plaster wall of the apse, culminating in a rainbow and a choir of angels, among the no less than 175 different angels throughout the church, painted, sculpted, carved and in glass.
The glory of the church is its stained glass windows, a number of them from Louis Comfort Tiffany and his studio.  The oldest, dating back to 1894, was the sole survivor of the 1900 fire.  A design by Louis J. Millet was added in 1905, and two by Edward Burne-Jones installed in 1913.
Even at is peak, at 792, Second Presbyterian's congregation was far less than the 1,300 seats in the auditorium.  Over time, as the area became more industrial, the wealthy fled, the mansions demolished or turned into boarding houses, and Second Presbyterian's membership declined. 
Although in 1901 Booker T. Washington was invited to Second Presbyterian and drew a turnaway crowd, it wasn't until 1958 that the first Afro-American was admitted to membership, a late catch-up as the racial makeup of the community had been changing.  Soon the survival of a treasure built by millionaires had become the responsibility of a largely poor Afro-American congregation.
Roosevelt Ferguson
At Thursday's ceremony, Roosevelt Ferguson, President of the church's board of trustees, remembered a time when churchgoers had to contend with falling icicles during the worship service.  “We only had heat on Sunday morning, and there used to be a huge icicle hanging in the southeast corner.  The heat would cause the icicle to melt and fall.”
Ferguson recalled the church considered three options: close the building and donate it back to Presbyterian hierarchy, move the sanctuary to the McCormick Theological Seminary site at Halsted and Fullerton - which McCormick sold to DePaul University in 1975 - or remain and tough it out, which was, thankfully, what they chose.  A series of loans were arranged to do essential tuckpointing.  When the loans came due, repayment was refused, and the funds were able to be redirected to replacing the mesh over the priceless stained glass windows.  “We had to replace the iron mesh,” recalled Ferguson, ”because the kids in the community when they passed the building would challenge each other to see who could a get a rock through the old iron mesh and hit the windows.”
Unlike, say, Fourth Presbyterian, which has had the luxury of a retaining its wealthy congregation and now finds itself site smack in the middle of Chicago's primary shopping street, Second Presbyterian gets far fewer visitors than it should.  At Thursday's ceremony, several of the speakers mentioned this was their first encounter with the interior, and they were awestruck.  I was one of them.
The fact that the exterior, truth be told, is more imposing than graceful, probably doesn't help.  Today, even as the community around it undergoes an accelerating gentrification, Second Presbyterian is maintained by a small membership and group of volunteers.  It's hoped that the National Historic Landmark designation will help bring more of us to encountering - and supporting - one of the greatest spaces in Chicago.
Second Presbyterian Church has worship services ever Sunday at 11:00 a.m.  under the direction of Interim Pastor Rev. Dr. David M. Neff.  In the fall, the church's Sunday afternoon concert series, Sounds of the South Loop, is scheduled to resume a new schedule.  In addition, Friends of Historic Second Church offers guided tours,  Wednesday and Saturday at 1:00 p.m. (holidays excepted), and every Sunday after services (approximately 12:15 p.m.)  Brochures are also available for self-guided tours during the hours the church is open.
Read more: