Thursday, May 13, 2010

Second Presbyterian: A Chicago and South Loop Landmark

South Loop and Chicago History
As far as Chicago history goes, the South Loop has been a major player, going back to the early nineteenth century. Henry and Caroline Clarke built their home in 1836, near 16th St. and S. Michigan Ave. Their house, the oldest in Chicago, is now a museum located at 1827 S. Indiana Ave. But there is another historic building in Chicago that few residents are familiar with.

Nineteenth Century Gothic
Second Presbyterian Church at 1936 S. Michigan is a Chicago landmark, receiving that status officially in 1973. Designed by James Renwick, the same man who designed St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Second Presbyterian was completed in 1874 and resembled gothic churches in England built during the 15th century.

For many years, Second Presbyterian was the house of worship for many prominent Prairie Ave. residents, including architect Howard Van Doren Shaw and artist Frederic Clay Bartlett. When the church was nearly destroyed in a fire in 1900, both Shaw and Bartlett helped to rebuild and restore it.

Tiffany and Company
What comes as a big surprise to many South Loop residents is the fact that Second Presbyterian houses nine Tiffany and two rare Edward Burne-Jones windows. The Burne-Jones windows were made in the William Morris Arts and Craft Studio in England. As a docent for the Glessner House, 1800 S. Prairie Ave., I know visitors from UK are pleasantly surprised to see Burne-Jones stained glass windows in an American church.

Second Presbyterian Church gives regularly scheduled  tours of the church sanctuary where you can see the Tiffany and Burne-Jones windows up close. For tour information, including free tours on Wednesdays, please check their Web site.

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