I took a trip to Chicago, my home town, to dedicate a memorial to my mother, who would have been 101 years old this year. The dedication took place at the Second Presbyterian Church of Chicago. Family members were invited to participate in the worship service in the beautiful 175 year old church.
Me and my son, Steve.
Be careful when climbing steps with a cane. I did a Cinderella by losing my shoe.
As a child, I never realized the quality of artwork within the architecture of the building. When I was about 4 years old, I was thrilled to be able to be a flower girl at my aunt’s wedding. I did not know what to expect. At the rehearsal, when the organ blared I got scared and ran to my mother, burying my head in her lap. Dr. William Clyde Howard gently took my hand and led me into the choir loft. He let me press the keys to make astounding music. Since then, I served as flower girl for many other aunts. Music also became a part of my life. Two generations later my granddaughter observed the same organ at the church.
Located on Michigan Avenue, in what is now termed the South Loop, construction of the church building began in 1872. The design of the building was based on English Gothic churches of the 15th and 16th centuries. Prominent members included Robert Todd Lincoln, George Pullman, George Armour, and Silas Cobb.
In March 1900, a devastating fire destroyed the interior of the church, but the stone wall survived intact. Architect Howard Van Doren Shaw, a member, was hired to redesign the new sanctuary in the Arts & Crafts style.
Our family was treated to a tour of the beautiful artwork in the sanctuary. During the worship service, we took part in the dedication of the renewal of the baptismal fount .
The sanctuary has been virtually unchanged since it was rebuilt in 1901, making it one of the largest and most intact Arts & Crafts interiors in the country.
Significant memorial windows added between 1901 and 1917 included nine by Lewis Tiffany Studios, and two important windows by Edward Burne-Jones. In 1917, the four-manual pipe organ was rebuilt by the Austin Organ Company, increasing it to 50 stops and 2,606 pipes.
Robert Todd Lincoln, son of President Abraham Lincoln, was appointed a trustee of the church in 1879, until he accepted a post as ambassador to the United Kingdom in 1889.
The church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and later designated a Chicago Landmark on September 28, 1977. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in March 2013.
Historical information: Second Presbyterian Church, A Brief History, by William Tyre, June, 2017.
Photographs by Martin Cheung.