Sunday, February 22, 2015

St. Basil Greek Orthodox Church - Anshe Sholom
 by: chicago designslinger

 [St. Basil Greek Orthodox Church - Anshe Sholom (1910) Alexander Levy, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

By 1910 the members of Anshe Sholom congregation had climbed high enough up the economic ladder to leave the old neighborhood behind as they sought to live-out the American dream. Among the first settlers of Chicago's historic Jewish community centered around Roosevelt Road (formerly 12th Street) and Halsted Street, the congregants of Anshe Sholom moved west as years of hard work and scrimping and saving, provided the financial freedom to say so-long to the old and hello to the new. The move was barely a mile from the area many city dwellers called the "ghetto", but it was light years away from their former existence in the somewhat shabby, densely packed neighborhood.

[St. Basil Greek Orthodox Church - Anshe Sholom, 733 S. Ashland Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The move meant that relocating residents needed a place of worship closer to their new homes and chose a sight in the wide open expanses of one of the city's premiere residential streets, Ashland Boulevard. Once home to many of Chicago's early movers and shakers, the vacant lot purchased at the corner of Polk Street was quite a feather in the congregation's cap. The building, designed by architect Alexander Levy with an entry portico right out of Rome and topped-off with a large arch-supported dome, made quite a bold statement among the rusticated stone mansions lining the street.

    [St. Basil Greek Orthodox Church - Anshe Sholom, Near West Side, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Just 16 years after making the move west, it was time to move westward again, out to the Lawndale neighborhood where a new building was constructed at Polk Street and Independence Boulevard near Douglas Park. The Orthodox Jewish congregation sold their former house of worship to the the members of a newly organized Greek Orthodox community who were making their own westward move from the area around Halsted and Polk Streets. The interior was reworked to comply with the needs of Eastern Catholic Orthodox religious rituals, the Star of David was removed from the pediment and the dome, and replaced by a crucifix. With a Hebrew inscription still over the door, the newly christened St. Basil Greek Orthodox Church was dedicated in 1927.
Almost all of the mansions along the boulevard have disappeared, and virtually none of the members of St. Basil live in the neighborhood any more, but worshippers come from near and far, and the church is thriving.

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