WIN: Final Chicago Landmark Recommendation Granted to Greater Tabernacle Cathedral / Holy Rosary Church in Roseland

Greater Tabernacle Cathedral / Holy Rosary Church, 11300 South Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. Photo credit: Paul Petratis
Historic photos of Greater Tabernacle Cathedral / Holy Rosary Church, including photo of 1937 fire presented during The Commission on Chicago Landmarks Report. Greater Tabernacle Cathedral, 11300 South Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. Image credit: Commission on Chicago Landmarks / DPD
Historic photos of Greater Tabernacle Cathedral / Holy Rosary Church, including photo of Barak Obama as a young community organizer in 1989, presented during The Commission on Chicago Landmarks Report. Greater Tabernacle Cathedral, 11300 South Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. Image credit: Commission on Chicago Landmarks / DPD

“The Commission on Chicago Landmarks has approved a preliminary landmark recommendation for the Greater Tabernacle Cathedral. Located at 11300 S. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, the church was originally the Holy Rosary Catholic Church when it opened in 1890.

“Meeting Criterion 1 for heritage, the church traces its origins back to the early settlement of Roseland and Pullman, which were linked economically and socially. The church was the first English-speaking Catholic parish in the area, serving a congregation of mostly Irish immigrants. The congregation flourished with hundreds of member families and by 1916 celebrated being free of their debts.

“On March 4th, 1937, fire devastated the church and destroyed everything except for the exterior building structure and the bell tower, including all the interior artwork and ornamentation. The congregation rebuilt the church after the fire and the building has gone on to hold a total of three congregations – Holy Rosary Catholic Church, New Day Ministry International, and Greater Tabernacle Cathedral (since 2016).

“The building also meets Criterion 3 for its association with a significant person. From 1985-1988, Barack Obama led the Developing Communities Project as its executive director from its organization headquarters in the rectory of Greater Tabernacle Cathedral. As a faith-based organization, DCP was incorporated as a non-profit in 1986 under Obama’s lead and established programming to support the local community through job training, college preparation tutoring, and tenants’ rights organizing for the Altgeld Gardens housing projects.

“With its Romanesque Revival design, the church also meets Criterion 4 for its exemplary architecture. Designed by Solon S. Beman, the church is monumental yet restrained as it features limited ornamentation and its exterior is dominated by projecting cross gable roofs, monumental arched windows, and the juxtaposition between the red brick exterior and limestone base. The church is completed with a commanding bell tower that stands 85 feet tall.

“For its standing as a work of Solon S. Beman, the church also meets Criterion 5 for its status as a work of a significant architect. Beman was a renowned late 19th century and early 20th century architect who designed over 1,300 buildings in the company town of Pullman alone. Other notable works include the Fine Arts Building, Greenstone United Church, and many others.” (Kugler, Urbanize Chicago, 5/26/23)

Preservation Chicago strongly supports the Landmark Recommendation of Greater Tabernacle Cathedral, formerly known as the Holy Rosary Catholic Church Complex. This church has been a community landmark since its construction in 1890, as it was designed by architect, Solon S. Beman, who was also the architect of the Town of Pullman, now known as the Pullman National Park.

“The church, with its tall iconic tower and steeple, was constructed on ‘Pullman Lands,’ once owned by industrialist, George Pullman, and prior to the construction of the tall railroad embankment and viaduct, must have appeared to be part of the larger Town of Pullman, directly to the east and across Cottage Grove Avenue. This was a very important feature and aspect to Mr. George Pullman as the vistas of his newly created factory town from various vantage points was meant to be overly impressive and beautiful to visitors, especially upon arrival by railroad.

“The church building’s deep-rich red brick, gabled façade, arched windows and entry, in addition to its primary façades and monolithic tower, are a great compliment to the many of the designated Chicago Landmark buildings of architect Solon S. Beman, and the Pullman National Park nearby. We therefore view this church and the adjoining Olmsted-designed, Palmer Park, along with Elam Lutheran Church (now said to be vacant), also by Solon S. Beman, along with the former Pullman Manuel Training School/now Gwendolyn Brooks Academy, as an extension of the original Town of Pullman. And therefore, perhaps also an extension of the Pullman National Parklands, which we hope will continue to attract many visitors in the future, noting its rich history.

“We also realize the great significance of the church, now Cathedral building and rectory to the career and accomplishments of former President Barack Obama, as this was the site of one of his early offices as a community organizer.

“In 2020, Preservation Chicago, listed Roseland’s South Michigan Avenue Commercial District as one of our Chicago 7 Most Endangered sites. Located several blocks to the west of Greater Tabernacle Cathedral, we encouraged the possibility of a new Chicago Landmark District, extending from King Drive westward to Michigan Avenue and including the buildings, structures and parklands along 111th and 113th Streets.

“This was envisioned to co-join the Pullman National Monument, now Pullman National Park, and once again tie together their shared histories, and encourage sensitive reuse, restoration and reinvestment of the historic buildings of Roseland and South Michigan Avenue. The recognition and designation of the Greater Tabernacle Cathedral Complex, may be the first step towards this idea and vision, looking to the future. (Preservation Chicago Letter of Support)

Ward Miller, The Richard H. Driehaus Executive Director of Preservation Chicago Letter of Support on May 4, 2023 to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks regarding Greater Tabernacle Cathedral/Former Holy Rosary Church Complex, 11300-11312 S. King Drive, Chicago

Additionally, Ward Miller has located the original stained glass windows from the bell tower that were so cherished by parishioners of Holy Rosary Catholic Church. He has been working to have them returned and reinstalled. During the 1937 fire which devastated the church, many of the firemen who battled the were members of the parish. The Fire Chief specifically gave orders not to break out the stained glass windows in order to protect them. The bell tower and its beloved windows survived the fire but were removed recently when the use changed from Catholic to Protestant.

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