St. James Cathedral (Chicago)

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St. James Cathedral
St. James Cathedral (Chicago) is located in Chicago
St. James Cathedral (Chicago)
41°53′40.71″N 87°37′34.44″W / 41.8946417°N 87.6262333°W / 41.8946417; -87.6262333
Location 65 East Huron Street
Chicago, Illinois
Country United States
Denomination Episcopal Church in the United States of America
Founded 1834
Architect(s) Faulkner & Clarke, architects; restoration, Walker Johnson, Holabird & Root, architects
Style Gothic Revival
Completed 1857
Diocese Chicago
Bishop(s) Jeffrey D. Lee
Dean Dominic Barrington

St. James Cathedral is the motherchurch of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America Diocese of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois. The cathedral stands at the corner of Huron and Wabash streets. It is the oldest church of the Anglican Communion and Episcopal tradition in the Chicago area, having been founded in 1834.[1] Originally built as a parish church, that building was mostly destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire. Only the bell tower survived, and this was incorporated into the rebuilt church, including the soot-stained stones around the top of the tower which remain black today. St. James received the status of cathedral in 1928 after the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul was destroyed in a fire in 1921, but the arrangement was terminated in 1931. On May 3, 1955, St. James was again designated the cathedral and was formally set apart on June 4, 1955.[2] The church is led by the Episcopal Bishop of Chicago.

Together with the Roman Catholic Holy Name Cathedral on State Street, the churches form the Cathedral District of Chicago.


St James is the oldest Episcopal Church in Chicago and one of the oldest in Illinois. In 1833, Chicago was a town of 350 people clustered around Fort Dearborn. In 1834, John and Juliette Kinzie brought the first priest to the area, Isaac William Hallam. Chossing the name of his Connecticut church, St James, Hallam organized the parish on November 2, 1834, in a North Water Street auction house. The first services were held in a new brick church on land donated by John Kinzie at Cass (currently Wabash) Street and Illinois Street on Easter 1837, the year Chicago incorporated as a city of more than 400 people.

The parish of St James was the chief source of Anglican outreach in northern Illinois and became the mother church for the area. Even in the beginning, Hallam, a missionary-minded priest, conducted services in then-distant places such as Joliet, Lockport, Peoria, Michigan City and Waukegan. St James was responsible for the organization of many other Chicago parishes. The earliest, Trinity (1842), was the first Episcopal church on the South Side. By the end of the 19th century, St James' many missions included Ascension and St. Chrysostom.

The Move to Huron & Wabash[edit]

Services began at the present location in 1857. As one of the largest churches in Chicago and home of many business leaders, St James was a natural choice for visitors to the growing city. That may have been why Abraham Lincoln, neither an Episcopalian nor a regular churchgoer, attended a service at St James in 1860, the day after his nomination as the Republican candidate for the presidency. A plaque set in the north wall of the narthex notes this event.

Because many St James parishioners served during the Civil War, the parish erected an elaborate memorial after the war "in honor of those who fell." The ornate mid-Victorian monument at the base of the bell tower at the north end of the narthex was designed by Frederick Clarke Withers, a partner of noted architect Frederick Law Olmsted. To guarantee that it would last for all time, the family of Chicago's first mayor, William B. Ogden, made certain that funds were provided to fireproof the memorial.

The Great Fire[edit]

The new church building, designed by Edward Burling, was dedicated in September 1871. On October 9, the second day of the Great Fire, the church was destroyed. The bell tower with its monument and the nearby Water Tower were the structures that survived in this part of Chicago. When the rubble had been cleared away, a temporary chapel was constructed in the narthex, with the Civil War memorial serving as the altar. Architects Clarke and Faulkner were hired to rebuild the structure.

Just four years after the fire, on October 9, 1875, services were held in the rebuilt church, the structure in use today, which seats 700 people. E.J. Neville Stent of New York, known for his English Arts and Crafts-style church interiors added stenciling in the sanctuary in 1888-89. Although the decor of the church was modified several times during the twentieth century, the 1985 restoration by Walker Johnson and the firm of Holabird and Root returned the original, hundred-year-old patterns in 26 colors to the interior, recreating a superb example of Victorian stencil work.

The font at the nave entrance, one of Chicago's finest examples of Italian marble sculpture, was carved by Augusta Freeman in 1874.

Notable Windows[edit]

Most of the sanctuary windows date from the end of the nineteenth century and are finely painted glass. With Biblical subject matter and rich symbols, these Victorian period jewels were gifts of many Chicago leaders who were St James members. The choir loft rose window shows a Christ-in-Majesty surrounded by angel musicians. The choir's English windows show Biblical events involving St James, the Transfiguration, and the Garden of Gethsemane. The altar windows, based on the Epiphany, Crucifixion, and Ascension were given in memory of the Rev. James DeKoven. They were lengthened in 1962 when the marble altar and floor were installed.

The carved wood and painted reredos, showing another Christ-in-Majesty was given in 1884 to honor a longtime rector, the Rt. Rev. Robert H. Clarkson.

Throughout its history, St James has offered an outstanding ministry of sacred music. Leo Sowerby, a well-regarded mid-twentieth-century composer, let the choir and played the organ from 1927-1962. Other nationally and internationally leading organists/composers who served St James throughout the 19th and 20th centuries include Dudley Buck, Peter C. Lutkin, and Clarence Dickinson. The present organ was installed in 1920, and a new 4-manual console and the portion in the north transept were installed in 1968. The organ was rebuilt and enlarged in 1999. Today, the entire instrument has 99 ranks.

After Chicago's first Episcopal cathedral, Saints Peter and Paul, was lost to a fire, St James became the Cathedral of the Diocese of Chicago in 1955. The "cathedra" or bishop's chair has the diocesan coat-of-arms on both the front and back.

St Andrew Chapel[edit]

Chapel of St. Andrew besides St. James

St James Commons includes a small Gothic chapel with a separate entrance on Huron Street, known as St Andrew Chapel. This marks the site where James L. Houghteling and his Bible class of 12 young men heard a derelict alcoholic tell them of once belonging to a Society of St Andrew and St Philip whose purpose was to seek out men and bring them to the church. While the class was unable to do much for the visitor, they were struck with the idea of the society he had described and founded the Brotherhood of St. Andrew in 1883. Now an international organization with hundreds of chapters and thousands of members, its purpose is to bring young men to Christ and His Church. In the gospel, St Andrew brings a young man with five loaves and two small fish to Jesus, who turns them into food to feed five thousand.

The chapel was completed in 1913 as a gift of the Houghteling family. The design, by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, closely follows that of an abbot's private oratory in an ancient abbey in southern Scotland. Saints prominent in the British Isles are depicted in the painted window glass. With a richly decorated triptych reredos featuring a baldachin or canopy, the Italian altar reproduces the Scottish original. For festival use, silver accessories were designed by Ralph Adams Cram. The sanctuary light, when burning, indicates that the Blessed Sacrament of Christ's Body is reserved in the aumbry on the south wall of the sanctuary waiting to be carried as Holy Communion to the sick.


  1. ^ "Who We Are". Saint James Cathedral. Retrieved 2014-03-05. 
  2. ^ "Chicago, Diocese of". Episcopal Church. Retrieved 2014-03-05. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°53′41″N 87°37′36″W / 41.894722°N 87.626667°W / 41.894722; -87.626667