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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).
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.
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.