A New Church in Chicago

 

15.04.06-Chicago-Meeting-House-left-utility-1024x614

I used to be part of the regional public affairs group, so I knew the Church was constructing a new church building on a prime parcel of real estate at 822 North Clark Street in Chicago. But I wasn’t really clear on the schedule. Well, earlier this week I got a flier to the effect that the building was done and they were going to give tours this weekend. The first tour would be at 3:00 p.m. Friday afternoon (i.e., today), which was perfect for me, so I decided to hop in a cab and go check it out.

When the cab pulled up, I was immediately impressed. It’s a beautiful building, and a jewel on that block. There were a half a dozen people milling around in front, and to be sure I asked whether this was the new Mormon church. They seemed a little embarrassed and said yes, it was, but they didn’t have anything to do with it. This struck me as odd, because they were holding newsprint papers that featured prominently the word “Nauvoo.” Only later did I figure it out, when a tour guide excitedly said “And we even have protesters already!” It simply hadn’t occurred to me that someone might want to protest the opening.

I went in through the front door, and there were maybe 20 people milling around. I immediately met some old friends, and together with several others we formed the group that would take the first tour of the building. We took an elevator up to the fourth floor (there are actually six floors; the sixth floor is not built out yet and is there to accommodate future growth). Two sisters were our tour guides.

They showed us one of the chapels. It was on the small side (perfectly appropriate for this location), but really beautiful. Then they showed us the administrative offices (bishop, clerk) and some of the classrooms.

I noticed a sign that read “Mother’s Room.” I’ve heard a lot of complaints about nonexistent or substandard mother’s rooms (located in the bathroom like the one in my building is a common complaint) online, so I was curious about this one. Oh man. This was absolutely state of the art, the Tesla of mother’s rooms. It was roomy, with two comfortable looking overstuffed chairs, diaper changing stations and an actual sink. Someone in Salt Lake had obviously been listening to the complaints, and I was impressed.

In the Relief Society room they showed us, there was a table and a pulpit there that were of historical significance. The table was an old sacrament preparation table, and the pulpit was one Heber J. Grant had preached from. Both had been restored and refinished, and they were beautiful. The very large baptismal font was in that room. A SP counselor who happened to be there told a story of how he saw a worker working on the flooring of the font, and then like a month later he noticed the same worker still working on the project. Apparently if you don’t get the surface absolutely flat it will develop leaks through the tiles.

We had our first snow of the season today, but my favorite space was an outdoor courtyard. That will be a great space on a warm summer night for various groups. The tour ended in the gym/cultural hall where they had refreshments (lots of good stuff there, but I just had some grapes.) Oh, and they have three levels of parking.

The building will be dedicated Sunday (the dedicatory prayer to be given by our local AA70, Elder Scott, whom I glimpsed just as I arrived), and then honest to goodness services in the building will commence a week from Sunday. Initially it will hold four units: two family wards, a singles ward, and a midsingles branch. (One of our tour guides is part of the midsingles branch. She is working on an LLM at Northwestern Law School, which is conveniently nearby.)

My coblogger Sam Brunson will be attending that building. They’ve been going to church in an elementary school, so this is going to be quite a step up. (But one of our guides pointed out all the windows in the building–lots of natural light–and commented that the existing members were not used to having cleaning assignments for their rented school space, and so having to clean all those windows might dampen some of the enthusiasm for the new location.)

The Church has been wanting to build in the heart of Chicago for many years, and they just could never find a suitable location. When they finally found this jewel of a spot, other faith leaders in the area came to their assistance and were very supportive of adding another house of worship in the area. And this will be wonderful for many of our younger people who live and work in the City. It’s an edifice we can justly be proud of.

Comments

  1. Aussie Mormon says:

    Anything of note on the roof? Is that where the courtyard is?

  2. John Mansfield says:

    Thanks for this account, Kevin. I am glad for Chicago.

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    Aussie, no, the courtyard is at ground level. Other than the steeple I’m not aware of anything special on the roof.

  4. Wonderful! Just a tip to correct the spelling of “faunt” to font. Can’t wait to see it someday.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    Ha, thanks for the correction, acw, I’ve made the change.

  6. I’ve never understood the “mother’s room” complaint. Every church meetinghouse mother’s room I’ve been in for church cleaning purposes has been palatial compared to the urine stained and toilet paper-less men’s rooms. Maybe it was more of a thing before my time.

  7. Left Field says:

    QBCC, you might get to decide if YOU are offended (and apparently you are), but you don’t get to decide if other people are entitled to be offended, and you don’t get to decide if other people are entitled to have an opinion about something. They are.

    Thanks for listening.

  8. I don’t know where the complaints come from either. Our mother’s room is a 4×6 ft hallway opening straight into the womens restroom.

  9. Kevin Barney says:

    Our mother’s room is a small area in the women’s restroom with a chair and a diaper pail. Not exactly a pleasant environment. As I said in the OP I think being an afterthought part of the bathroom is the most common complaint.

  10. This building sounds cool. My family usually volunteers to clean windows. Maybe having all of that natural light would be worth it.

  11. And as far as mother’s room complaints go, there is a great deal of variety as to what constitutes a “mother’s lounge.” Most of the ones I’ve seen have been fairly cramped, but some were perfectly accommodating. I think I’d make do without a mother’s lounge, though, if I could go to fewer hours of church. (Speaking hypothetically, as I have no need of a mother’s lounge at this stage of life. But I’d still take fewer hours of church.)

  12. Sound like a magnificent building, Kevin.

  13. That old elementary school left a lot to be desired. An instructor once told the class that we could either turn the fans on to avoid sweltering or hear the lesson, but we couldn’t do both. I’m happy the members there have such a nice building now.

    I’m also glad to hear the new building has a proper mother’s room. It’s surprising how kid unfriendly our churches can be. I’ve changed many diapers with my kid laying on the bathroom floor because there wasn’t a changing table. And asking mothers to nurse and/or pump in the women’s restroom is just ridiculous.

  14. I’ve loved the last 6-ish years we’ve been in the school; they’ve been hugely accommodating of the church, it has a playground that the nursery kids often played at (and my kids, along with others, would play at after church), and, frankly, it’s super-convenient (like, walking distance convenient) to where I live.

    At the same time, the new building is blocks from where I work, and, having walked by it a large handful of times, it looks great from the outside. Plus, rumor has it that there’s covered bike parking, which is great.

    Tomorrow’s the first day at the new building; it’ll be fun to actually go inside, given how long this building has been in the works. It will be nice to have a church building close to downtown, though.

  15. I am familiar with the Mother’s Room in Kevin’s building. And an architect. I can tell when something in a building is an afterthought.

    It’s an alcove, basically part of the screening vestibule that leads to the restroom. It has two chairs in it and perhaps a 12 x 12 table with a lamp. There is no room for a changing table. There is no plumbing. For a church that is so family oriented, which also means baby oriented, we could and should be doing better than the public building in this area.

    How do you know that women are not complaining about facilities in public buildings? If you don’t think it is not an issue, come sit on my side of the table.

  16. Left Field says:

    QBCC, just for the record I’ve chosen to not be offended by anything you write. But it would be dishonest to not point out that you’re a real ass.
    Cheers.

  17. QBCC,

    I have heard of many women speaking out about the lack of appropriate spaces to breastfeed in public buildings. It’s not just a complInt LDS women have, however since BCC is a blog about LDS topics and issues so Mother’s Rooms in church buildings are a topic that is more likely to show up here than a discussion of other public buildings.

  18. Quick report back: the dedication was fine (though I spent an inordinate amount of it trying to keep kids quiet). The best parts were definitely talking to friends I rarely see—including some who have moved away—before and after.

    The table and pulpit are out-of-this-world cool. I remember a few years ago when the church got them back, and am thrilled that they’ll be in our building; they add a local touch that’s absolutely inimitable to the building. Second-best part: the outdoor atrium is great. And third, there are some amazing cityscapes out the windows. It’s not downtown downtown, but it’s in a great neighborhood, and it’s designed in a way that fits the neighborhood.

    It doesn’t feel like our building yet (though frankly, it probably shouldn’t after an hour or two). And my kids were totally confused about a basketball court in a church (have I mentioned that they’ve all been attending church at an elementary school for half or more of their lives?). And I have a couple quibbles (for example, we don’t need three floors of parking—it’s blocks from two El stops, and a couple bus lines run right by it too—and the painting of the Nauvoo temple has a current Moroni, not the weathervane Moroni on it), but all in all, it’s a lovely building, and a great invitation for Mormons to move to the amazing city of Chicago.

  19. BCC Conscience has been relegated, yet once more, to the mod queue. Carry on.

  20. I have fond memories going to singles ward in that elementary school while we waited for this to be built. I’ve moved away since then, but am so happy for my buddies still in Chicago. This building will be a real blessing to the church in that area. I can’t wait to see it the next time i’m home.

    Now, it’s time to renovate the ol’ Logan Square building…

  21. So sorry to have missed the open house. What a wonderful way to begin its future! Is there a history of the Church in Chicago? I have tried to remember where the building was on the South side in the 1960’s. Maybe around 110th or so. They met in a large home.

  22. Kevin Barney says:

    that is something I would certainly be interested in.

  23. Kevin Barney says:

    A history of the church in the Chicago area, I mean…

  24. A history of the Church in Chicago would be fascinating. I know several people who are interested. There is a building on the far south side that was built for the church, but designed locally without experience with LDS buildings or practices. It was sold long ago.
    There are interesting parallels with the history of the Church in Washington, DC.
    To do it right would tell more than the story of individual members and buildings. It would also tell the story of urbanization, white flight, racial characteristics of the inner city, gentrification, and the demographics of Mormonism compared to the demographics of cities in the 20th century.

  25. So happy for the members of Chicago! Looks like a beautiful building. I would have loved this building 20 years ago as I lived in the large, orangeish-colored building at the right of the picture on Chestnut St. That would have been a wonderful commute to church vs the 1+ hour one-way drive we took every Sunday to the Buffalo Grove Singles Branch. There must be a lot more members/single members in that area of Chicago now compared to 20 years ago. I loved my time living in Chicago! Great Memories!

  26. michaelguymon says:

    history of the lds church in the chicago metro would be amazing. christiankimball is spot on. How that leads to today would be fascinating. South suburbs/nw indiana blew up in 70’s and 80’s only to deflate in the 90’s n’ now.

  27. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    michaelguymon, I suspect that’s tied to the serious economic contraction in the south suburbs and NW Indiana since the ’90s. The deindustrialization that hammered the South Side in the ’70s and ’80s started hitting the Calumet Region very hard in the ’90s.

    Chicagoland nowadays is basically 2/3 Boston and 1/3 Detroit. Will County, where I spent the majority of my childhood, is now mostly a bedroom community for the I-355 corridor in DuPage County.

  28. Way late reading this, and am glad I didn’t miss it. If you ever do find someone working on a history of the Church in Chicago, have them contact me, please. I have some great materials I could contribute, although far from all you’d need.

  29. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    I enjoy reading pieces like this. Thanks.

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