By Tom Holmes
Explore the history, architecture and faith traditions of six Oak Park houses of worship on Sunday, June 24, from 2 to 5 p.m. This first-ever Sacred Spaces House of Worship Walk is co-sponsored by the Oak Park-River Forest Community of Congregations and the Historical Society of Oak Park-River Forest. The six churches were all dedicated between 1902 and 1921. The buildings are located on or near Lake Street, within easy walking distance of each other.
Tickets are $15 in advance, available at the Oak Park Visitors Center, 1010 Lake St., or The Book Table, 1045 Lake St., or online at www.oprfhistory.org. On the day of the event, tickets and programs will be available for $20 after 1:30 p.m. at First United Church, 848 Lake St., in Oak Park. For more information, visit the website, www.oprfhistory.org or call 708-848-6755.
Houses of worship included on the walk are:
Calvary Memorial Church, 931 Lake St., an independent evangelical congregation founded in 1915. The congregation moved to its present location in 1977 after buying the building from First Presbyterian Church, which joined with First Congregational Church to form First United Church of Oak Park across the street. The building, constructed in 1902 by the First Presbyterian congregation, was designed by William G. Williamson, who incorporated many elements from Boston's renowned Trinity Church, the birthplace of architect H.H. Richardson's Romanesque style.
First Baptist Church of Oak Park, 820 Ontario Street, affiliated with the American Baptist Churches U.S.A., was founded in 1873 with 15 charter members. The congregation moved to its current location in 1923. The building, built in 1921, was designed by a member of the congregation, architect E.E. Roberts, and proved to be the last building of his illustrious career. The Church/Community Center/School complex has 105 rooms and originally included a smoking room for men.
First United Church of Oak Park, 848 Lake St., is a union church of the Presbyterian Church USA and the United Church of Christ. It was established in 1975 when the members of First Congregational Church and First Presbyterian Church of Oak Park united to use resources better and provide a more effective ministry to the community. The building was constructed in 1917 after a fire destroyed the original structure. Architects Holmes and Finn included all of the distinctive design elements of a classic Midwestern church with the outline of an English Gothic Cathedral.
Grace Episcopal Church, 924 Lake St., is part of the Episcopal Church of the United States and a member of the Anglican Community. The congregation was founded as a mission in 1879. The church, designed by noted architect John Sutcliff, is an 1898 interpretation of London's St. Paul Knightsbridge Anglican Church, which was built in 1839. Grace Episcopal is one of the best examples in America of the Gothic Revival Movement of English church architecture from 19th century England. Construction began in 1901. The congregation continued to build according to the 1898 blueprints until the church and its interior were completed in 1967.
St. Edmund Church, 188 S. Oak Park Ave., founded in 1907, was the first Catholic parish in Oak Park and the oldest Catholic church building in the western suburbs of Cook County. The building, dedicated in 1910, was designed by Henry Schlacks. His design includes all of the architectural elements of a 14th century English Gothic church. The art glass windows were created by Zettler Studios in Munich, Germany.
Unity Temple, 875 Lake St., is a Unitarian Universalist congregation formed in 1871. After the original building burned down in 1905, the congregation hired architect Frank Lloyd Wright to design a new building at the present location. It was built between 1905 and 1908. Because of its consolidation of aesthetic intent and structure through the use of a single material — reinforced concrete — Unity Temple is considered by many architects to be the first modern building in the world. Wright designed the structure as well as the furniture, stained glass, light fixtures and heating system for the building. Unity Temple was chosen as one of the 100 most significant buildings in the U. S. in a 1991 poll.
For more information on the Sacred Spaces House of Worship Walk, visit the website, www.oprfhistory.org or call 708-848-6755.