WOOP's Brush with Crime

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By Lourdes Nicholls

So it's only been 6 days since BLOP started and the WOOP (Worst of Oak Park) won over a BOOP (Best of Oak Park).  I had planned on having a WOOP on the first Wednesday of the month-but it's a day early due to OakPark.com's breaking news.  It is with great sadness that I submit the first WOOP (sigh....tear.....bugle horn please).

Click here to read the OakPark.com coverage

I was devastated to read about the crime involving “my” beloved Unity Temple.  I call it “mine” because it has been an honor to be a House Captain (with my co-captain Mark Szyndrowski) at Unity Temple for the past 12 Wright Plus House Walks.  How I love this building!  Over the years I have witnessed thousands of people stepping inside what Frank Lloyd Wright called his "Jewel Box". The look on their faces when they encounter Wright’s greatness is quite simply-pure joy.  I have smiled as visitors from around the world tell me how lucky I am to live in Oak Park, and there is no doubt in my mind that it is one of the greatest architectural workshops in the world.  Unity Temple has always been one of the first places I take friends to see when they come to Oak Park and no one is ever disappointed-in fact Unity Temple has opened their mind to architecture.  

This is why I felt physically ill when I read the OakPark.com story about the damage inflicted on ”our” Unity Temple.  It was only last Tuesday morning at 8:30a.m. when I walked around Oak Park in search of  the photos/letters for BLOP to illustrate my blog.  I needed an "O" and went straight to Unity Temple for it.  When I arrived the letters were missing.  I thought it was strange but assumed that there was work being done on the lettering.  I have good friends on the Unity Temple Restoration Foundation Board and we often chat about the ongoing restoration.

The OakPark.com story mentioned that the letters were taken between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.  I called OPPD’s Detective Borchers to tell him of my photo taking experience of Unity on Tuesday morning.  He was interested in my new lead, so I was happy to help (I have wanted to be a detective since I saw “Charlie’s Angels”… the TV show, not the movie).

Later, I needed to stop by the Oak Park Library with my son.  When I came out, I noticed the Channel 5 News truck in front of Unity Temple and thought we should check in on my friend Emily Roth, UTRF’s Executive Director. 

Click here to see the Channel 5 News coverage

We easily found her-since she said that every news station in the Chicagoland area had visited Unity Temple today!  I told her about my BLOP photo attempt Tuesday morning and she showed me two letters that were left behind by the thieves.

Holding the letters in my hands made me sad and angry.  For over 100 years they had been on the outside of Unity Temple weathering the extreme conditions of Mother Nature.  Wright never intended for the public to hold the letters, or see them damaged, let alone pay for them to be recreated/restored.  Who would do such an evil thing? 

UTRF was formed in 1973 to continue restoration and secure grants for which a religious organization would be ineligible.  Prior to last week’s event they had enough challenges trying to raise money for the various needs of the building.  Now they face another monetary hurdle: replacing Wright's missing words on the exterior of his beloved “Jewel Box”: "FOR THE WORSHIP OF GOD AND THE SERVICE OF MAN".   I only hope that this unfortunate tragedy will bring much needed attention to Unity Temple and will give them the press coverage and national attention they deserve.  Perhaps this horrible event will educate the public and the world despite the painful circumstances.  Let’s have Oak Park pull together during this difficult time.  I’m hoping that this WOOP will turn into a BOOP.  I know that Unity is capable of this!

P.S. UTRF has a wine, chocolate and architecture event October 28, 7 to 9pm. Call 708-383-8873 for more information.

Reader Comments

8 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Emily Roth from Unity Temple Restoration Foundation  

Posted: October 10th, 2010 1:55 PM

Thank you, Lourdes, for bringing your readers' attention to this really unfortunate incident, and for being such a great supporter of Unity Temple for all these years. We won't let this deter us from all the structural work that needs to be done! Most of all, big thanks to the Oak Park community for your continuing support.

Drewski from OakPark  

Posted: October 7th, 2010 1:42 PM

@ Chris: An Oak Park cop told me about a decade or so ago that the majority of theft and robbery that occurs in the village is in some way related to the drug trade.

Chris from River Forest from River Forest  

Posted: October 6th, 2010 12:20 PM

Are these thieves desperate for money to live on or are they destroying our beautiful things for drugs? Who is it who thinks they can just take private property, even if it's exposed for all of us to enjoy? Very sad, but I hope it doesn't hold us back from keeping our neighborhoods beautiful. Just don't try to use anything valuable.

Germaine Caprio from Oak Park  

Posted: October 6th, 2010 11:57 AM

The true sadness of the Unity Temple's loss was double for us here at Majamas Boutique. Ove the past two weeks, all of our copper window boxes were ripped off our store front. We have come to work 3 separate mornings to find our newly planted mums and dirt strewn over the sidewalk and the copper boxes gone. My faith in humans weakens daily.

Lisa Dodge from Oak Park  

Posted: October 5th, 2010 5:03 PM

I had the pleasure of working for the Restoration Foundation for over four years to increase visitation to the building. Over those four years, I watched thousands of visitors as they entered into the sanctuary and the awe that the space gave them! I am so saddened by this act, that I hope that whoever took them will be embarassed will return them without question. I agree with Bryan and think they thought they were copper...I am still in shock!

Byron Lanning from Oak Park  

Posted: October 5th, 2010 4:33 PM

Did the letter thieves think they were copper, or did they target the temple for its architectural value?Doopers are rolling over in their graves thinking you can't get any WOOPer than this.

genemc from oak park  

Posted: October 5th, 2010 2:51 PM

unity temple is a jewel.just to sit in it is calming.

Drewski from OakPark  

Posted: October 5th, 2010 11:12 AM

What a shame. I give tours at FLLW Home & Studio every month and always direct visitors to Unity. It's a treasure.

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