Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Saint Boniface Church
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Saint Boniface Church (1902) Henry J. Schlacks, architect /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

From a distance the soaring towers of Saint Boniface Church make quite an impression. But on   closer inspection, you might be taken aback to discover the boarded-up windows, mortar growing weeds, and chain link fence barricade. For those who admire historic buildings and 110-year-old craftsmanship, it's alarming and sad.

  Saint Boniface Church, 1358 W. Chestnut Street, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

How did it happen that such a grand structure fell into such disrepair? Lack of funds, congregants,   and a Roman Catholic Archdiocese strapped for cash who basically abandoned the building in 1990, creating a perfect storm of consequences that brought Saint Boniface to its present condition.

  [Saint Boniface Church, West Town, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Of course things weren't always in such a sorry state for the parish founded by German immigrants and named for a German patron saint. Saint Boniface, the church, had been standing on the site since 1864, and in 1902 the Rev. Father Evers asked Chicago's busy ecclesiastical architect Henry J. Schlacks, to design a new edifice for parishioners to worship in. The building was one in a long line of churches from Schlacks' office, and although St. Boniface was not his most elaborate, it made a powerful statement at the corner of Noble and Chestnut Streets with its bell towers and Romanesque details.

  [Saint Boniface Church, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The original German congregation eventually gave way to a primarily Polish-speaking group of parishoners, which became Spanish-speaking by the 1970s. As numbers dwindled, there weren't enough members to sustain the parish financially and the Archdiocese couldn't continue to pay the tab for keeping St. Boniface open. Demolition began on the former convent in 2003, then the school building designed by Schlacks in 1896 fell to the wrecking ball. Preservationists tried working with the Archdiocese in an attempt to save the church building, but in December 2008 a demolition permit was filed with the city.
So how is St. Boniface still standing and continuing to crumble in 2011? Well the city stepped in, did a land swap with the Archdiocese, and a developer was found who now plans to turn the former church site into housing for senior citizens. According to the schematics currently on the drawing boards, most of St. Boniface will be razed this summer with the new building built in and around the existing red-brick facade and its imposing bell towers.

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