Historic Chicago Landmark Second Presbyterian Church to Host Free Event June 22nd

Historic Chicago Landmark Second Presbyterian Church to Host Free Event June 22nd
Court of Honor from the Chicago 1893 World's Columbian Exposition

On Wednesday, June 22nd at 5:30pm, Friends of Historic Second Church is holding a free event at the National Historic Landmark Second Presbyterian Church at 1936 S. Michigan Avenue.  The theme of the event is “Making History at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition” The event will feature refreshments including Chicago original food stuffs that were introduced at this Chicago World’s Fair which is arguably the largest and most spectacular of World Fairs.

History of the Church


An example of just some of the spectacular stained glass windows in the sanctuary of the 2nd Presbyterian Church

An example of just some of the spectacular stained glass windows in the sanctuary of the Second Presbyterian Church

The historic church has links to the “White City” as many of the architectural details and stained glass windows were designed by artists who exhibited at the 1893 World’s Fair.

Just five years after the incorporation of Chicago, the congregation of Second Presbyterian Church was organized on June 1, 1842 with 26 charter members. Its first building was a modest frame structure at the southeast corner of Randolph and Clark.

By 1847, the congregation had grown so much a larger building was planned on the northeast corner of Washington and Wabash. Well known architect James Renwick Jr. of New York was hired to design a building in the Gothic Revival style. The limestone used in the construction contained bituminous tar deposits, creating a spotted appearance, earning the name of the “Spotted Church.”

The explosive growth of the city in the 1860’s required the trustees to build a new church south of downtown. Construction on the building, also designed by James Renwick Jr., was begun in 1872 at the northwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Twentieth Street, now Cullerton.  The English Gothic design was based upon the churches of the 15th and 16th centuries. Construction took two years and was dedicated on July 7, 1874.

Ruins of the 2nd Presbyterian Church after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871

Ruins of the Second Presbyterian Church after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871

The Prairie Avenue neighborhood around the church became the most exclusive residential district in Chicago. Business and social leaders lived in the beautiful mansions, many of whom were members of the congregation. Robert Todd Lincoln served as a Church Trustee from 1879 – 1889. Robert Lincoln’s wife, Mary, joined the Second Presbyterian by profession of faith on June 12, 1877. Other distinguished Chicagoans worshiped at the Church including George Armour, Timothy Blackstone, Silas Cobb and members of the George Pullman family.

In March 1900, a devastating fire, caused by a faulty gas fixture, destroyed the interior of the church. Architect and church member Howard Van Doren Shaw was hired to redesign the sanctuary. Shaw designed a beautiful new space in the Arts & Crafts style incorporating carved wood, pre-Raphaelite murals, metal and glass that exemplified unity of design and focused on hand craftsmanship. The sanctuary has been virtually unchanged since it was rebuilt in 1901.

As it has for over 140 years, the 1874 Second Presbyterian Church stands tall on South Michigan Avenue and proudly holds its place in Chicago history.

The sanctuary of the Second Presbyterian Church is one of the largest and best preserved Arts and Crafts interiors in the nation.  It contains a wealth of stained glass windows including nine by the firm of Louis Comfort Tiffany and magnificent murals by Frederick Clay Bartlett

Event Details

Date:  Wednesday June 22, 2016

Time: Doors open at 5:30pm for tours and reception

Location: Second Presbyterian Church at 1936 S. Michigan Avenue, C hicago, IL  60616


The event will start with music from the Fair performed by organist Michael Shawgo and introductions by board members.

Diane Dillon, Ph.D., Director of Scholarly and Undergraduate Programs, at the Newberry Library will give a 30 minute presentation entitled, “Making History at The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition”.

Following the program there will be free refreshments including Chicago original foods that were introduced at the Fair over 123 years ago as well as tours given by volunteer docents.

Information about the current $500,000 fundraising campaign by Friends of Historic Second Church will be available at the event.

The funds raised over the course of the campaign will go to restore a Tiffany Studios stained glass window entitled, Peace, a mural by Frederic Clay Bartlett and replace plaster throughout the sanctuary and narthex.


The event is completely free but an RSVP to 800-657-0687 or to historic2ndchurch@yahoo.com would be appreciated because space is limited.


For more information you can visit Friends Historic Second Church website.



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