“A handful of mostly middle-aged women threw up a barricade made of sticks, branches, broken bricks and a couple of sawhorses Friday morning.
“Then they sat down and prayed.
“‘We have God. We have the rosary. We have the bigger barricade,’ said Judy Vazquez, 65.
“Whether that will be enough to deter the Archdiocese of Chicago remains to be seen. Vazquez and her fellow demonstrators quickly assembled outside the majestic but crumbling St. Adalbert Church, 1650 W. 17th St., Friday morning when they got word workers were on their way to try once again to remove the church’s marble Pieta, a replica of Michelangelo’s.
“Vazquez said she and her group managed to turn the workers away Friday morning, even as the men grumbled the women had no right to block their way.
“This whole thing is so agonizing, it’s so heartbreaking. We shouldn’t have to be out here,” Vazquez said.
“Work began late last month to remove the statue from St. Adalbert’s, which was built by Polish immigrants in the early 1900s and opened its doors in 1914. In 2016, it was announced the church — in need of major repairs — would close. It held its last Mass in 2019, and its parishioners were merged with the nearby St. Paul’s Catholic Church — where the archdiocese plans to move the marble statue.
“But it won’t be without a fight.
“Supporters of saving St. Adalbert’s said Friday that they plan to remain in front of the iron gates 24 hours a day until they can sit down with archdiocese officials. They don’t want the Pieta moved.
“Vazquez, who grew up in the Pilsen neighborhood, said she postponed a knee replacement surgery in Seattle to fight the archdiocese.
“‘We want the archdiocese to come to the table and realistically talk to us as parishioners [about] what to do with this property so it’s not sold to developers. We have just as much right to this property as they do,’ she said.
“She and others said they would be willing to be arrested, if necessary.
“On Friday, Susan Thomas, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese said, ‘The statue will follow the parishioners to St. Paul Church in Pilsen, where it can be properly displayed and safeguarded in an active parish church.'” (Esposito, Chicago Sun-Times, 9/9/22)
After neighbors sounded the alarm when they discovered contractors working for the Archdiocese of Chicago attempting to break-through the east transept wall of St. Adalbert Church. Preservation Chicago arrived on scene to assist preservation partners and has been proactively reaching out stakeholders. Preservation Chicago staff camped out on site through much of the weekend of to support the human barricade of community members attempting to prevent the unpermitted demolition work.
The rectangular hole will be approximately 10’ or 15’ in height and 8’ wide, and a cut opening through the exterior masonry wall. The drilling and backhoeing of this portion of the east wall may undermine portions of the structure. This work is being done without a permit and was initiated without the knowledge of the City and the Community.
St. Adalbert Church was a Chicago 7 Most Endangered Buildings for several years, and was designed by architect, Henry Schlacks. As the building is orange-rated and city officials have promised that it would become a Chicago Landmark. The building was deconsecrated and closed three years ago by the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Preservation Chicago encourages the City of Chicago to initiate landmark proceedings for St. Adalbert before the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. If the church and rectory were to be brought into Preliminary Landmark Recommendation, it could remain in a long-term Tolling Agreement, to give the Archdiocese, the City and other stakeholders the opportunity to continue with robust conversations.
This would offer all of the protections of a true Chicago Landmark Designation, and also prohibit the removal of art glass. Tragically, all the art glass was recently removed without a permit from the orange-rated All Saints-St. Anthony Church in Bridgeport, another closed church by Henry Schlacks. St. Anthony’s sanctuary was devastated by contractors working for the Archdiocese prior to transferring the property to a private developer.
In the past that this idea of a Tolling Agreement worked for St. Gelasius/St. Clara, now known as The Shrine of Christ the King, as well as the New York Life Building, now the Kimpton Hotel Gray at LaSalle and Monroe Streets. That designation of St. Gelasius, which the Archdiocese opposed, led to Cardinal George inviting another religious order from Wisconsin to move to Chicago and establish this as their national headquarters, known as the Institute of Christ the King, within the St. Gelasius/St. Clara Church building and complex. So, the Chicago Landmark Designation was a wonderful planning tool, which led to excellent outcomes.
Preservation Chicago is committed to strengthening the vibrancy of Chicago’s economy and quality of life by championing our historic built environment. Preservation Chicago protects and revitalizes Chicago’s irreplaceable architecture, neighborhoods and urban green spaces. We influence stakeholders toward creative reuse and preservation through advocacy, outreach, education, and partnership.