Someone apparently went to a lot of trouble to damage one of Oak Park’s premier architectural treasures Sunday night.

A bucket of tar was dropped through the skylight over the Unity Temple sanctuary overnight. The bucket damaged a hanging lamp in the Frank Lloyd Wright designed sanctuary.

David Wilke, Unity Temple’s business manager, called the damage “a mysterious incident,” one he said officials aren’t quite ready to call vandalism.

“We really haven’t put it all together,” said Wilke, who filed a suspicious incident report with Oak Park police.

Wilke said someone had to scale extensive scaffolding on the building’s exterior walls to reach the roof. They then had to scale “an eight to nine foot tall wall,” to reach a greenhouse like structure that acts as the weather barrier to the stained glass skylights in the Unity Temple ceilings. They then lifted a stained glass panel, which is not fastened down, and dropped the bucket through. The panel was then put back in place.

“It’s a pretty elaborate set up,” Wilke said of the skylight system.

On top of that, Wilke, who said he is up on the roof quite frequently, said he didn’t believe the tar bucket came from the temple restoration process. Someone, he said, likely carried the bucket up the scaffolding and over the wall atop the roof.

“It’s a troubling thought that someone went through all that trouble,” said Wilke. He said it’s too early to estimate the cost of damage to the sanctuary ceiling light. Police are still investigating, and the church’s insurance company has not yet inspected the damage.

“I don’t think the damage is that substantial,” Wilke said. “We’re not talking tens of thousands of dollars.”


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