Friday, February 20, 2015

Church of the Epiphany - Epiphany Episcopal Church
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Church of the Epiphany - Epiphany Episcopal Church (1885) Francis M. Whitehouse, Burling & Whitehouse, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Episcopal mission Church of the Epiphany had been organized by a small group of Chicago's near west side citizens in 1868. But by 1885 the membership had grown large enough, and financially secure enough, to commission architect Francis M. Whitehouse to design a new church building for them on a prominent corner at the intersection of the Ashland Boulevard and Adams Street.  

 [Church of the Ephiphany - Epiphany Episcopal Church, 201 S. Ashland Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1879 Whitehouse had joined forces with architect Edward J. Burling, a carpenter who came to Chicago in 1843 and was the second person in town to hang an "architect" shingle outside his door. When the west side Episcopalians asked the firm of Burling & Whitehouse to design their new church for them the office was busy with work and was widely known. Although the project was relatively small, the younger architect had a special connection with the local Protestant denomination since his father Henry John Whitehouse had once been the Episcopal bishop of Illinois. And when the building was completed, Francis included a panel in the altar reredos dedicated to the Bishop's memory.

[Church of the Ephiphany - Epiphany Episcopal Church, Wets Jackson Boulevard National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The church council asked for a design that was not "a monumental cathedral but a warm and devotional parish church," and Whitehouse delivered. The exterior was called "Norman" back in the day, but now is commonly referred to as having been designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, and the structure fit in well with its neighbors at the time. Several of the mansions that once lined Ashland Boulevard were built in a similar style and with the same Lake Superior sandstone. The bell tower, and its colonette cluster at the corner piers, was a later addition also designed by the architect.
The parish was well-to-do but not wealthy. The church struggled with its finances for decades, and in the financial panic of 1893 nearly went bankrupt, but with cash infusions from parishioners of means the church survived. Although membership today is nowhere near the 700 congregants who once filled church pews, Epiphany has changed with the times and provides services for the large number of immigrants seeking assistance at the Mexican Consulate located across the street. The sanctuary not only continues to be a place of worship, but also serves as a performance space for dance and music when pews are rearranged providing ample room for dancers and musicians.

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