THREATENED: Restoration Funds Needed for St. Hyacinth Basilica

“The leaders of a historical Avondale church are asking parishioners, neighbors and fans for help preserving the aging structure.

“St. Hyacinth Basilica, 3635 W. George St., is more than 100 years old. It was built thanks to fundraising among Avondale’s Polish enclave, which grew considerably during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, said Kate Wietrzak, the church’s financial secretary.

“Due to its age, the church requires ongoing and expensive maintenance, Wietrzak said. But with a dwindling congregation — the church’s school closed in 2014 — plus more recent challenges like pandemic disruptions and inflation, upkeep has proved difficult.

“The parish started in a small wooden church … a few streets away from here near Milwaukee and Central Park avenues,” she said. “It was built by the Polish immigrants who came here and tried to find lives for themselves.”

“On Aug. 7, 1921, what is now St. Hyacinth Basilica opened for worship for the first time, records show. Worthmann and Steinbach’s architectural firm designed the church exterior in the neoclassical style, evoking the great religious structures of Rome.

“The interior has Baroque elements showcasing art that depicts Biblical scenes. A 3,000-square-foot mural features saints and members of the church community who helped fund the construction of the church, records show. The church’s patron saint, St. Hyacinth, is the subject of a large mural at the main altar in the church.

“‘Worthmann and Steinbach were really prominent ecclesiastical architects that did quite a few really tremendous buildings,” said Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago.

“Other churches the duo designed include St. Mary of the Angels in Bucktown and the now-closed St. Michael the Archangel in South Chicago, Miller said.

“‘St. Hyacinth Basilica is one of those great, cathedral-type buildings by [that] very prolific firm. The Chicago Historic Resources Survey has at least 61 buildings throughout the city that they designed that are orange rated,’ he said.

“The 1995 survey was conducted by the city officials to help identify buildings of historical and architectural significance. St. Hyacinth Basilica’s orange rating denotes an “architectural feature or historical association that made them potentially significant in the context of the surrounding community,” according to the survey.

“While St. Hyacinth Basilica doesn’t have landmark status, it’s important to the Polish community, Wietrzak said.

“‘It’s just a beautiful church, definitely very unique, and people come from all over the country on pilgrimages to see it. It’s very special for Polish people and people in Poland to know about it, too,’ Wietrzak said.

“Neighbors who want to help maintain the church property can donate on the St. Hyacinth website.” (Hernandez, Block Club Chicago, 11/7/23)

Read the full story at Block Club Chicago

St. Hyacinth In Avondale Needs Community’s Help Preserving Century-Old Basilica; The church’s main tower was recently restored, but the structure needs constant repairs that are harder to fund as the congregation shrinks, church leaders said, Alex V. Hernandez, Block Club Chicago, 11/7/23


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