Friday, September 28, 2007

The Flying Benedictine

Towering over the near south side, St James is a magnificent limestone 1870's era Church, with all the incumbent structural issues of a lumber framed, stone veneered building. Today, Fr. Ed Lytton, OSB, led an inspection of the exterior stone, and architectural adornment, shown here outfitted in safety harness.

The Society of St. Barbara would like to begin a project at St. James to get this in shape. Drop me a line, the Church and the church both need you:

By the way, that is not an optical illusion. The crane/man-lift really is up to the top of the steeple at St. James, with Fr. Ed and an Engineer on board.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Green Square for Irish Church

Old St. Patrick's the well preserved Irish stalwart on the near west loop, has proposed a rather brilliant park to be constructed in the rather simple (but pleasant) lot across Des Plaines Avenue.

I think this really adds to the Parish Complex, which already includes a rectory, St. Francis Xavier Warde school, and the (ugh) Archives of the Archdiocese.

There is also a new statue of "Grainne" (Grace in Gaelic) donated by the City of Galway, Ireland to the Parish, certainly gracing this gem in the face of rather Soviet looking block. Well Done!

HT Lynn Becker

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

More Basilica's Please: St. John's, Des Moines Iowa

As always, the Society of St. Barbara celebrates Basilica's, even in unlikely places, like the Basilica of St. John the Apostle, near the (United Church of Christ) Drake University Campus in Des Moines.

The architects were from McGinnis and Walsh of Boston, who also designed the National Shrine in Washington D.C. found on the campus of Catholic University. This Basilica, in Lombardy Romanesque style, is a fine white Indiana Limestone building with a red French clay tile roof. I attended a very traditional mass at the Basilica last week, celebrated by Priests of the Order of St. Benedict.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

La Crosse Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

My family visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe two weeks ago. Notre Dame Professor Duncan Stroik and company designed the place, while local architects and builders are making it the splendid structure you see here.

Sister Christa Marie, FSGM, showed us around the building site. We had breakfast at the reception hall, which was very good. This is the first installation of stained glass

The dome is pretty well finished. Much of the painting is also complete.

July 31, 2008 is the planned opening date.

This is an awesome project. I encourage anyone interested to travel to LaCrosse to take a look, leave a donation, and enjoy the prayerful setting.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Vote Bohemian

American Express has a novel program to protect and celebrate American architecture, they are calling Partners in Preservation. The idea sure sounds like a pleasnt one, in sort of 1960's radio contest way: Amex will donate $1 Million to the upkeep of a Chicago area landmark, based on the leader in number of votes on their website to maintain the landmark (it also sounds a bit like the SNL skit where callers voted on whether to boil a live lobster or not).

John Mallin is the premier ecclesiastical mural painter in the United States. He did work all over the Archdiocese of Chicago, following Henry Schlacks with his finishing touches to Schlacks Churches. One of his finest works, however, was not at a Catholic Chapel, rather at the non-denominational Bohemian National Cemetery Chapel at Pulaski and Foster in Chicago.

There are many fine architectural works that Amex is considering for support. I campaign here for the BNC and the restoration of the John Mallin paintings (they are in rough shape), with the following criteria:

1) Landmarks such as the Robie House are supported by the Multi-Billion$ University of Chicago endowment, and have no need for additional funds.
2) Landmarks, such as the Humbolt Park Stables, are supported by the Chicago Park District, and have huge maintenance budgets, albeit, maintenance that is sometimes skipped for more pressing needs like Chicago style political shennanigans.
3) John Mallin lived a very long time, and was still producing classical artwork in the 1960's when the rest of the world had given up on 2000 + years of tradition in exchange for Roy Lichtenstein. We need more artists such as Mallin to uphold the fine arts regardless of the prevailing artistic norms.
4) There is not a soul in Chicago (or most of the rest of the world) that has not heard of the Unity Temple and Frank Lloyd Wright. Do we really need more promotion of architect (albeit a great one) who built his career on hype and exposure?
So, I urge you, in Chicago style, to vote early and often for John Mallin and the Bohemian National Cemetery in American Express Partners in Preservation contest. $1 Million will go a long way to keeping this gem in tact.

Dr. McNamara and Rev. Baker on DVD

A key member of the Society of St. Barbara has put out a new DVD highlighting some of his work. Now before you think that you already saw all the "Die Hard" series (did Matt Alderman have a bit role in those?) at the theater, think again: this is Denis McNamara along with the Most Rev. R. Baker speaking about prayer and architecture respectivley, in a lecture given to the Institute for Religious Life.

This DVD will help you discover new insight and appreciation for religious architecture when you hear this informative talk, or in the case of this Blog's readers, re-affirm and reinforce your current holdings. There are many good video shots of the beautiful chapel at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois, where the talk was given.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

19th Century Version of "New Urbanism"

Went shopping in Valley Junction (Circa 1846) today, the 19th Railroad Stop in southwest Des Moines, Iowa that once hosted 26 passenger trains per day. Commuter trains, street cars, and long distance sleepers all called on Valley Junction, making this neighborhood a thriving competitor to the central business district of the city. Restaurants, boarding houses, fraternal halls, banks and dry goods stores all kept the economy humming here.

The buildings have some fine brickwork, a planned amount of congestion (giving one the impression that the area is very busy, which it is), and a wide variety of shops and stores, all within a short walk of each other. The area is still going strong (though more functional than charming, in many cases), and worth a trip to look at the railcentric layout and fine 19th century building technique.