Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"50 Men, Two Tractors, and Several Teams of Horses"

The "Hidden Chicago" program on PBS has some interesting facts about Uptown.  One surprise was that Our Lady of Lourdes Church, at Leland and Ashland, was once on the southeast corner of the intersection, rather than the southwest one, and faced Ashland rather than Leland. It used to be located in what is now a parking lot, across from Chase Park, next to the former Parish Hall, and it all happened in 1929.  Let Geoffrey Baer tell it:
"As the population exploded, the city's re-named, re-numbered and re-paved streets were clogged with traffic, so in another massive project, Chicago's arterial streets were widened.  'And the way that they did this was just by chopping off the fronts of buildings, something that today just seems unimaginable....'

Further north, the widening of Ashland threatened Our Lady of Lourdes Church, so the congregation moved the massive brick edifice across the street.  Fifty men, two tractors and several teams of horses were used to move the ten thousand ton church.  Once across the street, it was rotated 90 degrees to face the cross street.  As long as they were moving the church, they also decided to cut it in half and add a thirty foot addition to the middle, increasing the seating capacity by 300 people."
Here are some photos from the Chicago Library Digital Collection, at the Sulzer Library, of the event.  The last one is of the church as it looks now.

The church in its original location, where the parking lot is now,
facing Ashland Avenue


  1. Fascinating story and amazing what man can do when not bogged down by environmental studies, court appeals and bureaucratic red tape.

  2. Elbow grease...

  3. I love OLOL!! I have been going there for 39 years!!

  4. Pretty awesome! I had heard of this story many years ago, but never had seen pictures of it, its amazing.

  5. Interesting how the roof line of the school changed too. Now it's a flat roof. And the entire fourth story is gone. Anyone know what happened there?

  6. My mom used to tell me about when they did this. This was our old parish,.

  7. @ Toto...

    Good observation! It was from a fire in 1944, they rebuilt it with some changes. Here is an excerpt from OLOL website:

    "In 1944 there was a fire that destroyed the third floor and attic. Thank God there were no injuries as the children had already been dismissed. The following year, the school was re-opened with an addition and renovation."

    And here is a link for more historia:

    @ Susan

    My mother used to say the same thing when we would pass OLOL and I always thought she was kidding us until I read it somewhere else...she has a sense of humor...good times.

    I donated a painting to the church about 4 years back for a fundraiser. Its from the perspective of the 3rd photo down, fairly large, about 30"x40" on mounted grasscloth (of all things).

    A gentleman bought the painting and in turn donated it back to the church were it hangs in the waiting room of the rectory. I never took a picture of it I just realized.....

    I'm just glad they raised enough cash to do the restoration of those towers, they were in perilous condition up top and the other option was to dismantle them. It is such a beautiful church and thankfully a lot of people came through.

  8. Thanks for posting these great old pics!