Unless they can be convinced otherwise, the Archdiocese of Chicago has announced that Sunday, July 14, 2019 will be the final service held at St. Adalbert Church in the Pilsen neighborhood. The Archdiocese then plans to deconsecrate the church, much to the distress of the faithful worshippers at the church who are hopeful to keep it as a sacred place.
While the Archdiocese would not comment on it, there is widespread speculation in the community that a developer has made a successful bid to acquire the St. Adalbert site at 1636 W. 17th Street, which includes a church, rectory, convent and school building as well as a large surface-grade parking lot.
Parishioners were devastated and profoundly impacted by the news at a June church service. Preservation Chicago has worked diligently with the community and the Archdiocese over the years to broker an agreement to first and foremost save all the buildings from demolition and then work to keep the church building as a sacred space. Preservation Chicago has encouraged the Archdiocese to consider a Landmark designation of the building and a dozen others that are architecturally and historically significant as an act of goodwill. These treasures, constructed by the faithful with pennies, nickels and dimes and given up to the Archdiocese of Chicago to steward, staff and care for more than a century in most cases, need to be saved. Preservation Chicago will continue to advocate along with the community to ensure any redevelopment is sensitive to the community’s needs and guidance.
The Renaissance Revival church was designed by architect Henry J. Schlacks. Its soaring 185-foot twin towers can be seen prominently in the Pilsen community. It is certainly a landmark, and the Archdiocese of Chicago and the City of Chicago should recognize that honor. Religious structures need the consent of owners to be designated Landmarks in Chicago, and that consent is often difficult to attain. This often separates these buildings from the surrounding Landmark Districts – and therefore creates different standards and changes the rules that everyone else must abide by. Perhaps even the 1987 ordinance requiring religious structure owner consent can be overturned by our newly elected aldermen and Mayor Lori Lightfoot.