After a torrential storm battered Oak Park’s world famous Unity Temple in late 2008, the people who oversee it set about fixing the 100-year-old building. A lot of money and effort have gone into fixing the temple’s ceiling, and that includes 8-9 pounds of goat hair.

The Unity Temple Restoration Foundation – a nonprofit that’s directing the fix-up of the building – is holding its annual meeting May 18, to elect a new board and look forward to the next year. The organization also plans to use the meeting as a chance to commemorate the near-finished repair work at Unity.

“This year, we really have something to celebrate,” Roth said.

After heavy rains in September 2008, it was discovered that Unity Temple’s roof and drainage system were in disrepair. The more than 100-year-old temple needs between $20 and $25 million of repairs, according to Roth.

The foundation and the Unity Temple Universalist Congregation, which owns the building, are just wrapping up a $535,000 project, fixing the south roof slab of the temple. Money for the project came from various sources, including $120,000 from the state of Illinois, along with grants and donations.

Work started in October 2009, and Roth expected it to be finished by May 18, in time for the annual meeting. They’re trying to stick to the spirit of how Unity Temple was built, which began in 1905, and even ordered 14 pounds of goat hair from Virginia to put into the plaster mix (some type of animal hair was used originally to help bind the material together, but Roth says they’re unsure from what specific creature it originated).

“Our original analysis didn’t do a DNA spec, so we didn’t know if it was goat or cattle,” Roth said.

Next, the restoration foundation needs to set about raising money to fix the rest of the roof slabs, along with the temple’s drainage system, Roth said.

The annual meeting will be held May 18 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Unity Temple, 875 Lake, and will include food, wine and tours of the building.

The congregation, meanwhile, has a gala fundraising concert, Expressing the Inexpressible, planned for Saturday, May 22, featuring Russian romantic music played by three classical musicians.


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