Monday, February 16, 2015

La Salle Street Church
 by: chicago designslinger

 [LaSalle Street Church (1882) Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The LaSalle Street church building has survived the widening of the street in the 1930s, which obliterated the front facades of most of its neighbors, the changes of the ethnic and racial make-up of the neighborhood, and several different congregations who have used the facility as a house of worship.   

 [LaSalle Street Church, 1136 N. La Salle Street /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

It all begins in the early 1880s when the Scandinavian immigrant community built Trinity English Lutheran Church on LaSalle Avenue. They moved from their previous home at Dearborn and Erie Streets into a neighborhood of German and Irish immigrants who didn’t participate in Sunday services at Trinity since the Irish were Catholic and the German Lutherans attended their own churches. As those ethnic groups began to assimilate and prosper and started an exodus out toward neighborhoods farther away, they were followed by other nationality groups and people of other races.

 [LaSalle Street Church, Trinity English Lutheran Church /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger] 

The building became Christ Church of the Deliverance and soon thereafter was called the Elm-LaSalle Bible Church. The formidable Moody Bible Institute campus was located further south on LaSalle Street and the church building was located north of the old Trinity parish church. Moody took over the facility and ministered to the recent wave of Italian immigrants who had moved into the area. In 1942 one of the biggest changes the neighborhood would undergo through in its long history was brought about by the construction of the massive, new government housing development being built nearby which bore the name of Francis Xavier Cabrini an Italian immigrant herself, and the first American citizen ever proclaimed a saint by the Catholic Church.
By the 1960s Elm-Street Bible Church was located in a community undergoing dramatic racial changes. Cabrini-Green’s population had changed from a housing project primarily made up of low-income whites to even lower-income blacks, and LaSalle Street became a dividing line between the poor minority community and the upper-income white community to the east in Chicago’s Gold Coast. There was a struggle within the conservative church hierarchy between those wanting to reach out to the minority group and those opposed. In the early 70s Moody turned over the reigns of operation and the building itself, to a new pastor and the remnants of the majority white congregation. The outreach didn’t work too well at first since the African American community distrusted the intent of the newly named LaSalle Street Church whose membership by now had dropped to 125 people. I was in high school at the time and our choir director was the music director of the church and we participated in the musical portion of Sunday services now and again. Soon after taking over the reins the new pastor, Rev. William Leslie, formed a consortium of neighboring churches to create the Chicago-Orleans Housing Corporation in an effort to build a large residential development a block west of the church for moderate to low-income families as a bridge between Cabrini and LaSalle’s neighbors to the east. It took a while, but in 1977 Atrium Village opened its doors and still provides housing today while Cabrini-Green has been almost completely demolished and has nearly disappeared.
The 128-year-old church building has survived, and provides a home to a progressive congregation ministering to the local community despite the ravages of time, weather,street expansion and political upheaval.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.