The D. L. Moody Memorial Church
by: chicago designslinger
[The D. L. Moody Memorial Church & Sunday School (1925) Fugard & Knapp, architects / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
In 1854, 17-year-old Dwight Lyman Moody left his mother's home in Northfield, Massachusetts near the New Hampshire border and headed south to Boston. He had big plans. He set out on a mission to learn the ins and outs of the business world, intent on earning $100,000 a year as a result of his endeavors. Once he reached Boston he found work as a clerk in a shoe store and by the time he turned nineteen, he had come to the conclusion that Chicago might actually be the place where he would realize his dream.
[The D. L. Moody Memorial Church & Sunday School, 1635 N. La Salle Street, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
He wouldn't be the first, nor the last New Englander who believed that the young city out on the western frontier might be just the right place for an enterprising young man to make a fortune in the dry goods trade. Marshall Field, another Massachusetts native, came to Chicago in the same year as Moody, but while Field went on to become one of the wealthiest men in the United States, Moody found another calling. He was working as a salesman for C.N. Henderson & Co. in downtown Chicago, when he discovered a neighborhood very different from the one he lived in on Michigan Avenue. Just north of the Chicago River, in and around Illinois, Franklin and Market (today's Orleans) Streets Moody discovered a ramshackle neighborhood comprised primarily of Irish immigrants from an area in County Cork, Ireland called Kilgubbin. It was one of the city's densest and poorest whose streets were lined with small, deteriorating wooden shacks and filled with young boys popularly known as "Street Arabs."
[The D. L. Moody Memorial Church & Sunday School, Near North Side, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Moody, an active member of Plymouth Congregational Church which was located near the boarding house he was living in, thought that if he could get these unruly young men to attend Sunday school he might be able to save them from the horrible life he believed was ahead of them. In 1859 he rented a room in one of the dilapidated buildings in the neighborhood, and with missionary zeal began canvassing the streets for young recruits. All of this effort caught the attention of upstate New York transplant and dry goods tycoon James V. Farwell, who offered Moody a meeting space in Farwell's North Market Hall building on Hubbard Street for the Sunday classes. Moody quit his job, ditched the idea of earning $100,000-a-year, and dedicated himself to his new life calling.
[The D. L. Moody Memorial Church & Sunday School, Old Town, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
By 1864, Moody had become well known in the city for his work, and was able to raise enough funds to build a church and Sunday school on Illinois Street. Swept away in the fire of 1871, he sets his sights on a location further north and chose the intersection of Chicago Avenue and La Salle Street. Ironically, he never served as the church's senior pastor, instead choosing to focus all of his attention and energy on his evangelical, soul-saving mission. In 1874 after an extended excursion conducting revival meetings across England, Moody settled in his home town of Northfield, Massachusetts where he died in 1899. The last decade of his life rarely saw him back in Chicago, but in 1886 he was actively involved in the creation of the Chicago Evangelization Society.
[The D. L. Moody Memorial Church & Sunday School, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
After his death, and in honor of their founder, the Society became the Moody Bible Institute and the church the D. L. Moody Memorial Church & School. Although they both took on the Moody label, and although the pastor of the church often served as the president of the Institute, legally they were, and are, their own separate entities - which has lead to much confusion. In 1915 Moody Memorial Church left their corner at Chicago Avenue and La Salle Street and the main campus of their cousin the Institute, and erected a very large "temporary" wooden tabernacle farther up La Salle at North Avenue. The temporary tabernacle was on its last wooden legs by the mid-1920s when the congregation announced that architects Fugard & Knapp would be designing a permanent home for the church and school. John Fugard and George Knapp had designed a number of large apartment houses along East Lake Shore Drive and in the Gold Coast neighborhood in their nine years as partners, and Moody Church would be one of their last projects together. In May, 1925 while the church was under construction, George Knapp decided to focus on his investment portfolio and left the firm. Their highly ornamented exterior enclosed a Sunday school and a 5,000-seat auditorium with enough space left over for a 300 person choir. The structure became one of the largest, purpose-built, Christian-identified, worship spaces in the world.