Tuesday, March 3, 2015

St. Clement Church
 by: chicago designslinger

 [St. Clement Church (1918) Barnett Haynes & Barnett, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Between 1850 and 1900 so many people from the loosely defined confederation of states, duchies and kingdoms that we know today as Germany migrated to the city of Chicago, that by the turn of the 20th century one in four Chicagoans had either arrived in the city from that Northern European region, or had a parent who had done so. Germans outnumbered the second largest ethnic group, the Irish, by two-to-one.

  [St. Clement Church, 642 W. Deming Place, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

With those kinds of numbers German immigrants and their children could be found in clusters all around the city, but a large majority settled on Chicago's north side. And like many of their fellow migrants, the German speaking settlers organized religious institutions in their common language neighborhoods, both Roman Catholic and Protestant. If you came from the northern states of the Germanic empire you were mostly likely a follower of Luther, while to the south you followed the doctrines set by the Pope in Rome. One of the first Catholic parishes in Chicago, St. Joseph's, was organized by north side German dwellers in 1846, followed soon thereafter by St. Michael's in 1852.

  [St. Clement Church, Arlington - Deming Historic District /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Adam Kasper's parents left their home in southern Germany in the late 1830s, came to America in search of a better life, and settled in Indiana. But by the time Adam turned 16 in 1858, he'd decided, like his parents before him, better opportunities were going to be found elsewhere. So the ambitious teenager packed his bags and headed to the emerging metropolis of Chicago to seek his fortune. After a career working his way up the ladder and establishing himself in the city's multi-million-dollar generating wholesale grocery industry, A.J. Kasper & Co. became one of the city's more successful coffee, tea and spice wholesale concerns. By the mid-1890s, and with his financial success secured, this father of five sons and four daughters moved his family from their home on Ridge Avenue in Evanston and into a much larger single family dwelling in the city. Deming Place was lined with large houses on generous lots owned by a number of successful businessmen with German sounding surnames, so the Kasper's fit right in. After a few years in the neighborhood, Kasper got some of his fellow German Catholic neighbors together and decided that the time had come to build a church closer to home. It was quite a trek down to the German speaking parish of St. Michael's, and although the German led masses at St. Alphonsus were a little nearer, Kasper and his neighbors Frank Ehlen and Louis Hugel decided to petition the Catholic archbishop James Quigley and ask to establish a parish in their neck of the woods. It was the last of the German Catholic identified churches to be established in the city.

  [St. Clement Church, Deming Place, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Quigley gave the okay, and in 1905 appointed 30-year-old Francis A. Rempe as pastor while Kasper started rasing the funds needed to build a school and church building. For the next 10 years the parishioners of St. Clement worshipped in a space tucked inside the school building. In 1915 Kasper put into motion plans to build a free-standing church edifice across the street from the school/church building on the corner of Deming Place and Orchard Street, and just a half a block from his own home. With seed money in hand, Rempe chose the architectural firm of Barnett Haynes & Barnett to design a house of worship along the lines of the Roman Catholic cathedral in St. Louis which the designers had recently completed. Work got underway in the summer of 1917, and the cornerstone was laid that September.

  [St. Clement Church, Lake View, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

One year later on September 8, 1918 the new Byzantine-inspired St. Clement Church was dedicated by Chicago's new archbishop George Mundelein - who on his father's side was of German descent. Now Kasper could stroll down Deming Place to Chicago's most spectacular example of early Christian architecture. The financially successful wholesaler tuned the business over to his sons the following year, and days after celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary on September 8, 1924 Kasper collapsed on the fairway of the Edgewater Golf Club and died of a heart attack at age 72. His wake was held in the living room of his home and his coffin was carried down the street to St. Clement for a funeral mass. Because of his efforts and his never-ending financial support the church's rose window was dedicated in his name. The Kapser home no longer stands on Deming, but his fellow founder Frank Eheln's small frame cottage still stands over on Burling Street, and Louis Hugel's handsome two-story greystone can still be found on nearby Wrightwood Avenue.

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