THREATENED: Outrage Over Unpermitted Demolition Work at St. Adalbert Church (Chicago 7 2014, 2016, 2019, 2021)

Partial demolition of rear masonry wall without permit at St. Adalbert Church September 1, 2022. St. Adalbert Church, Henry J. Schlacks, 1636 W. 17th Street. Photo Credit: Ward Miller / Preservation Chicago

“Parishioners are vowing to stop the Archdiocese of Chicago from removing a beloved statue from a former Catholic church in Pilsen they fought to save.

“On Friday morning, about 16 former parishioners staged a protest outside St. Adalbert Church, 1650 W. 17th St. after Rosemarie Dominguez, a member of the St. Adalbert Preservation Society, sent out a mass text Thursday night asking residents to gather outside the church gate.

“Judy Vasquez, who also lives in Pilsen, said she was told archdiocese workers were tasked with taking down the replica of Michelangelo’s La Pietà statue that sits in the former St. Adalbert church, prompting former parishioners to protest. The archdiocese plans to move it to St. Paul Catholic Church in Pilsen, a spokesperson said.

“Now, residents plan to rotate shifts, camping outside to block the statue from being removed.

“‘We don’t know if they will come at night and try to take something out [of the church],’ said Maria Mendez, a Pilsen resident.

“On Friday morning, Dominguez and a Polish parishioner were the first to arrive to the church, she said. Three construction workers and a gatekeeper arrived shortly after they did, Dominguez said.

“While the two women were propping pieces of wood on the church gate on the west side of the church, the gatekeeper told them they didn’t have the right to stand in the way of efforts to remove the statue.

“Dominguez said she promptly sat down in front of the gate to block the statue from being removed.

“‘I was ready to chain myself to the gate,’ she said. (Cardenas, Block Club Chicago, 9/13/22)

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.

Read the full story at Block Club Chicago

Pilsen Parishioners Camping Outside Former Catholic Church To Block Archdiocese From Removing Beloved La Pietà Statue; For years, Polish and Mexican parishioners fought side by side the save St. Adalbert’s church. Now, they’re fighting to keep a statue there. “I was ready to chain myself to the gate.”, Jacqueline Cardenas, Block Club Chicago, 9/13/22

Ald. Sigcho-Lopez files complaint against Mayor Lightfoot over rezoning of Pilsen church
The alderman accused the mayor of taking cues from the Archdiocese and Cardinal Blase Cupich over what parishioners are asking for — a transparent process for the future of the St. Adalbert Church property, Manny Ramos, Chicago Sun-Times, 5/28/22

City Moves To Landmark Pilsen’s Beloved St. Adalbert Church After Years Of Activism; The preliminary recommendation could be considered by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks in the spring, a spokesman said, Mauricio Peña, Block Club Chicago. 10/29/20

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