Tag Archives: History

The Parishioner: St. Laurence’s Last Days.

Chicago-The Parishoner

 

This Summer, on the South Side of Chicago, St. Laurence’s is finally coming down.  The grounds, which included a rectory and a school, already suffered through a devastating fire and neglect. the Archdiocese of Chicago closed the church in 2002.

The former parishioner in the above photo came to pay his respects, fittingly, on a honeyed Sunday evening. He attended St. Laurence’s School next door as a child.

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It’s hard to express the stunning beauty of this building, even as it crumbled before our eyes. According to Preservation Chicago, the building dates back to 1911. The complex was listed as one of Chicago’s 7 most threatened buildings by Preservation Chicago in 2011, the building’s 100th anniversary. Landmarks Illinois, an organization dedicated to  historic preservation, stated that “this collection of buildings is one of Chicago’s most intact and impressive early-20th century religious complexes.” And yet, it’s being demolished. Brick by Chicago brick.

Here’s some more recent pictures of the complex from danxoneil’s Flickr page:

There’s a metaphor here, somewhere. Perhaps it’s like watching a sleeping giant. Or a fallen warrior. Watching this building decay slowly has been surreal. Now that slow decay has been quickened.

I had a student a couple of years ago who didn’t really talk a lot. I asked her one day to sum up the toll an abandoned building puts on a block, on a community.

Her words still haunt me: “They are a black hole in the community”. Of course. Everything dark circulates around them: drugs, crime, strife. Darkness itself is housed within it. Yet, St. Laurence’s still shone bright, especially on sunny, cloudless days. A passerby might almost forget that time was ravaging the building from the inside out. Still, if a building could be proud, despite decay, that building was.

Grand Crossing’s Patron Saint of Building Redemption, artist Theaster Gates, told me not long ago that he had looked into saving it, but it was beyond repair by then. Its days were numbered.

I can’t help but feel as though if this building had been on the North Side (Roscoe Village, perhaps) and not nestled in Grand Crossing, its fate might have been different.


Dear Michael….

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What bothers me are bandwagon tributes.  An Icon, they say. A Genius.  The same cackling media outlets that refused to play Michael Jackson’s music for years, and affixed an implicit punchline to his name.  Whatever.  Artists are not perfect people. We can choose to accept the art without embracing the artist.  In the case of Michael Jackson, I embraced both[. 

 

 

Born in Gary, Indiana (a fairy tale story in and of itself) the whole family accomplished amazing things.  At one point, the Jackson 5 had the nickname of “Black Beatles” because of the Hysteria that ensued when they arrived on the scene.  But Michael, dear Michael.  He shook hands with the Queen.  He changed pop culture forever.  His music will live on forever.  And there’s a generation of us that will idolize him as long as we breathe as untouchably “bad”.  He gave us infinitely more than we ever gave him. 

So here come the tributes, the tears.  Celebrate genius in life.  Not as it’s ripped away.  Flowers for the dead pale in the glow of flowers for the living.

Steve Walsh and I interviewed his Brother, Tito, about the family’s story (including Michael’s) and about their Gary Roots.  Listen here:

And, from the FIRST Michael Jackson album, I bring you my joint, “I Wanna Be Where You Are”….

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