Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago
by: chicago designslinger
[Archbishop's Residence - Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago - Cardinal's Mansion (1885) James R. Willett, Willett & Pashley, architects / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
The soil was sandy and somewhat unstable, but with a good stone foundation the house would most likely settle into its site just fine. Architect James R. Willett had learned a lot about such things during his service as an engineer in the Civil War, and after the conflict was over, and landing in Chicago, he set-up an architectural practice. In 1880 who should arrive in the city to take over as Chicago's very first Roman Catholic archbishop, none other an old war buddy, Father Patrick Feehan. Once he settled in, the Catholic prelate asked the architect to design a residence befitting the status of the leader of the recently elevated diocese and chose a site at the northern edge of a new residential subdivision the archbishop was developing in and around the grounds of the old Catholic cemetery.
[Archbishop's Residence - Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago - Cardinal's Mansion, 1555 N. State Parkway, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
James Patrick Feehan was serving as the Bishop of Nashville when the Pope called him to Chicago. The city had been pastored by a Catholic priest since the arrival of Father John Mary Irenaeus St. Cyr in 1833, and by the time the Right Rev. Father Feehan arrived 47 years later, St. Cyr's 32 family parish had grown into a 150,000 family archdiocese. Feehan moved into the episcopal residence on Ohio street when he first got to town, then moved over to North LaSalle Avenue before deciding to build a much larger residence on the piece of land overlooking Lincoln Park - the former City Cemetery.
[Archbishop's Residence - Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago - Cardinal's Mansion, Gold Coast National Historic District, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
It was a large piece of property, certainly one of the largest in the emerging residential neighborhood north of Division Street and east of Dearborn. Feehan's episcopal house plot had been acquired by the city's first bishop William Quarter in the early 1840s. Located at the northeast corner of the Catholic cemetery, the parcel wasn't included in the cemetery's first plat map because in short order the Bishop sold the tract to the Sister's of Mercy for $100. The nuns had considered building a hospital on the site but they eventually sold the land back to the diocese when Bishop Anthony O'Regan paid a bargain basement price of $1.00 for the vacant lot in 1856. O'Regan, not popular with a large segment of the city's Catholics, had recently built himself a new residence on diocese property at the northwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Madison Street which proved to be a perfect foil in a mud-slinging p.r. campaign organized against the cleric. Dubbed the "Bishop's Palace," the house became a symbol of O'Regan's total disregard for his flock and his complete mismanagement of the diocese. The name stuck, and even as future bishops moved from one house to another, no matter the size or location, the Catholic leader's home was there after referred to as his "palace."
[Archbishop's Residence - Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago - Cardinal's Mansion, Astor Street Historic District, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
By the time Archbishop Feehan made plans to build a house the size of a palace, no one batted an eye. Chicago's Catholics were proud of their stature within the larger American community and were happy to show that they had the financial resources to build a house worthy of their new status as an archdiocese. Willett and his new partner Alfred Pashley delivered. The house was one of the largest residences in the city, and featured one of the largest number of impressive brick chimney stacks around. Feehan was able to pay for the place because he was in the midst of grading streets and subdividing the old Catholic graveyard for residential development, and selling house lots at a premium price. On January 15, 1882 the Chicago Tribune announced in their Real Estate column that agent George Rozet had sold over $100,000 worth of property to various individuals including a large swath of land along the "Lake-Shore drive from Schiller to North Avenue" to Potter Palmer for a tidy $90,695, or just over $2 million today.
[Archbishop's Residence - Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago - Cardinal's Mansion, Near North Side, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
When the archbishop moved into his "House of Many Chimney's" in 1885 Potter Palmer's own "Castle" was nearing completion on the Drive. Soon many more homes occupied by members of Chicago's upper crust would line the streets carved out of the old cemetery grounds. In 1924, Archbishop George Mundelein was elevated to the position of Cardinal, and the large red brick house facing North Avenue between State Parkway and Astor Street shifted from "Palace" to the Cardinal's Mansion. And although Mundelein and his successors moved into the residence without giving it a second thought, by the early 2000s the first native born Chicagoan to sit on the cathedra of the Church of the Holy Name decided that perhaps the time had come to sell this very valuable piece of Gold Coast real estate. Although in a prime location, the large house with its substantial lot could prove to be a tough sell. Francis Cardinal George would not only have to find a deep-pocketed buyer willing to purchase an aging structure in need of updating, but also a buyer willing to pay an estimated $14 million for a home located in an historic landmark district.
[Archbishop's Residence - Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago - Cardinal's Mansion, Gold Coast, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
The real estate market collapsed in 2008, and in September of this year Pope Francis announced that Bishop Blase Cupich would be Chicago's next archbishop. On November 18, 2014 upon his installation as the leader of the country's third largest Roman Catholic diocese, for the first time in nearly 130 years, the Archbishop of Chicago will not be living at 1555 N. State Parkway and will instead reside in a small apartment in the rectory of Holy Name Cathedral. While the mansion is used for special gatherings and events, a committee of clergy and lay members will report to the archbishop who will decide on the house's fate within the Chicago church.