Mapping the Church in Chicago

Maps can provide a physical, concrete source for understanding the growth of a community. More so than text that dictates to the reader, a map allows for observation, a helpful tool when looking at a topic like the Catholic churches of Chicago. This map, created by Hector Bahena and I, shows the location of a few key parishes and Catholic institutions in pre-fire Chicago.

Our map shows a group of select Catholic establishments, found using Gilbert Garraghan’s The Catholic Church in Chicago, 1673-1871. The map includes:

  • St. Mary’s Parish, including the parish rectory, and the eventual St. Mary’s Cathedral which replaced the earlier church (Note: the marker for St. Mary’s is at the same location of the episcopal residence at Madison and Michigan; zoom in to see the separate markers)
  • Holy Name
  • Holy Family
  • Chicago’s first Catholic bookstore
  • St. Louis’s Parish
  • Episcopal Residence
  • St. Henry’s
  • St. John’s

One of the main challenges in crafting this map was the issue of identifying locations. For many of these parishes, there may have been two or more locations that the specific church called home before the Chicago Fire in 1871. Holy Name, for example, had two different locations before finally settling on its current location at State and Superior. When confronted by this issue in our map, we generally chose whichever location the institution remained at for the longest amount of time. For example, St. Mary’s Parish (Chicago’s first parish) was built in 1833 on Lake Street, west of State. However, it only remained at this location until 1836, when it moved to Madison and Michigan. The church would remain in that location until 1844 when a new St. Mary’s Cathedral was constructed. As such, we chose to list the Madison and Michigan address for the address of St. Mary’s church as nine of its twelve years were spent there.

The other problem we faced was with streets that have been paved over, renamed, or otherwise lost to history. The McDonnell Bookstore originally was on Market Street, but in 1949 Market Street was rebuilt as part of Wacker Drive. St. Louis’s Parish stood at Polk and Sherman (after moving from Clark and Adams). However, in the 1980s, Sherman Street was renamed to Financial Place. Though this information was easily found in the end, it was pretty jarring for us when we learned we were trying to pin down an intersection that didn’t exist.

In all, we hope that this map will provide an interesting look at the position of some of Chicago’s key early Catholic institutions. For further fun with maps, check out some of the other Ramonat Scholar blogs.

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One thought on “Mapping the Church in Chicago

  1. Pingback: Mapping Catholic Chicago | Ramonat Seminar 2015

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