Holy Name Cathedral
by: chicago designslinger
[Holy Name Cathedral (1875) Patrick C. Keeley, architect; (1893) Willett & Pashley, architects; (1914) Henry J. Schlacks, architect; (1969) C.F. Murphy & Asoociates, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
On December 9, 1853 under the banner headline New Catholic Church, the Chicago Tribune had this to say about the diocese's new cathedral, "The only regret we have is in the fact that a building so beautiful in all of its proportions is to contribute to the aggrandizement of a powerful, aggressive, and as we believe dangerous hierarchy perfectly organized and directed by men of great sagacity and untiring energy." So sayeth the Tribune about the 84-foot wide by 194-foot long edifice under construction on the city's north side. It would be Chicago's largest house of worship.
[Holy Name Cathedral, 730 N. State Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Bishop James Van de Velde had made the decision to move the cathedra from its perch at St. Mary's of the Lake Cathedral on Wabash and Madison Streets up to the north side of the city where the Catholic bishopric owned a large chunk of land bordered by Huron and Chicago Avenues, and today's State Street and Wabash Avenue. The city's first bishop William Quarter had established the University of St. Mary's of the Lake on the northern half of the block in 1844, and as the city's population edged northward Van de Velde decided to use a piece of the southern half of the property for the new cathedral. The University had a small chapel, the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus on the site, so the Bishop decided that once the new building was completed the chapel would be closed and that the name would be shifted over to the prominent new location of the bishop's chair. But Van de Velde's tenure overseeing the expanding western Catholic outpost was drawing to a close, so that by the time the new cathedral was completed in 1854 Anthony O'Regan was in the bishop's seat.
[Holy Name Cathedral, North State Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
The imposing $100,000 structure at the southeast corner of State and Superior Streets was left barely standing after the fire in 1871 had leveled the surrounding neighborhood. Only the tower of St. James Episcopal Cathedral located around the corner and the tower of the water works on Chicago Avenue stood defiantly among the debris. By this time O'Regan was gone and the current bishop, James Duggan, was living in a sanatorium recovering from a nervous breakdown. So it fell to Coadjutor Bishop Thomas Foley to decide what to do next. A temporary wood structure was built behind the burnt-out brick building and Foley set about building a new cathedral, but this time on the north side of Superior at the northeast corner of State. He picked New York architect Patrick Keeley to design a church on an even grander scale, and Keeley, whose portfolio was packed with ecclesiastical wonders, filled the bill.
[Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Keeley chose native Joliet limestone, the same masonry used on nearby St. James and the water works, for the exterior, and embellished the entire structure, both inside and out, with Gothic flourishes. Apparently Keeley's interior wasn't quite stately enough for the city's first archbishop Patrick Feehan who now governed the nation's second largest Catholic population. So Feehan undertook a major 3-year restoration of the entire 15-year-old building in 1890, which included magnificently enhancing the interior. Architects Willett & Pashley oversaw the installation of imported Italian marble for the columns, walls and altar, while the windows openings were filled with painted art glass and the ceiling was turned into an intricate assemblage of pieces of carved walnut enhanced with gold leaf and a series of murals. True to form the Tribune once again took "a useless and gluttonous priesthood" to task bemoaning the fact that "the Protestant people of Chicago should be obliged to feed, clothe and warm hundreds of Catholic Irish poor." Therefore speaking "On behalf of the Protestant brethren of this city" instead of spending great sums of money on decorating their "great barn of a cathedral, the built-fed Catholic clergymen" should "fit-out the interior as an almshouse, and the Bishop's palace as an infirmary, and by all means let the Catholics take care of the Catholic poor."
[Holy Name Cathedral, Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
More changes were on the way for the cathedral building, helped along by the doctrinal changes instituted by the Second Vatican Council. By the mid-1960s the 90-year-old structure was sinking in Chicago's spongy soil. The roof needed replacing, the interior needed a thorough cleaning, and the altar now needed to face the congregation instead of the wall. So in April 1968 the cathedral was closed, and under the direction of Archbishop John Cardinal Cody the building underwent a massive restoration and updating. Structural repairs were undertaken, the old Italian marble altar was removed, and a new 10-ton, Argentine marble altar was installed. The old wood floor was taken-up, a new basement was built. The disintegrating painted glass windows were replaced with stained glass, and the ceiling was given a polish, and the $2.5 million restoration was completed in time for midnight mass, Christmas Eve 1969. The Tribune praised the redo this time around, but about 100 people protested outside decrying the use of church funds for a building rather than for helping the poor. Forty years later the 133-year-old building was in need of another new roof, and a refurbishment of the wood ceiling. In the early hours of a February morning in 2009, for the second time in the church's history, a fire nearly destroyed the cathedral. Firemen quickly responded to flames that had broken-out in the attic of the roof and although there was massive amounts of water to deal with in the aftermath, the quick response had saved the building. When the restoration was complete, no one complained about the expense.