WIN: Greater Tabernacle Cathedral in Roseland Receives Preliminary Chicago Landmark Recommendation

Greater Tabernacle Cathedral, 11300 South Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. Photo credit: Paul Petratis

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

Dear Chairman Wong and Members of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks,

We are writing to express our strong support for the “Preliminary Landmark Recommendation” of Greater Tabernacle Cathedral, formerly known as the Holy Rosary Catholic Church Complex and located at 11300 to 11312 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, in the Roseland Community of Chicago.

This church structure and complex 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.

With all of this noted, we at Preservation Chicago wish to strongly support the Preliminary Landmark
Recommendation for the Greater Tabernacle Cathedral, formerly known as Holy Rosary “Irish” Catholic
Church in the Roseland Community of Chicago. Thank you!

Sincerely,
Ward Miller, The Richard H. Driehaus Executive Director of Preservation Chicago

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