Saturday, March 28, 2015

From the Far Southwest Side...

...last weekend to the Far Northeast Side (although no one calls it that) today.

I've lived in Chicago for most of my life; can you believe I'd never been on the campus of Loyola University until today? (And I even had a niece that went there.) Shame on me!

But I was up in Evanston today for a memorial service and stopped off at Loyola on the way home. (As you can see from my pictures the light wasn't optimal; or was it?)

I was inspired by my new favorite blog to check out Madonna della Strada Chapel, a great example of Art Deco architecture. What I didn't know is that the chapel is only one of three Art Deco structures on campus.

According to this website I found (my emphasis):

The chapel of Madonna della Strada at Loyola University Chicago was constructed in 1938-1939, toward the end of the Great Depression. Its Art Deco design reflects its inception in the Jazz Age.

Huh? What? Art Deco and the Jazz Age are associated with the 1920s, not the 1930s.

However, planning and fundraising for the new chapel went back to the year 1924. Fr. James J. Mertz, SJ, worked over fifteen years (1924-1939) to raise $750,000 for construction costs. The existence of Madonna della Strada is due primarily to Mertz’s dogged efforts sustained over the long haul.
As an undated sketch for the proposed chapel — in an Italianate style — demonstrates, the ultimate Art Deco design was not envisioned from the beginning. It was in 1929 that Andrew Rebori, a member of the Chicago School of architecture, submitted his design which was ultimately accepted.

In 1929, construction was underway on the Elizabeth M. Cudahy Memorial Library, also in the Art Deco style and the building with which the chapel would eventually be a pendant. In the fall of 1929 — at the very moment of the October Wall Street Crash that set off the Great Depression — construction had also begun on the Art Deco building of Mundelein College. These three buildings — Cudahy Library, Madonna della Strada, and the Mundelein College skyscraper — would eventually form an Art Deco triangle on the Lake Michigan shore.

Mundelein College

Cudahy Library

Check out these doors!

In spite of the Great Depression, Mertz succeeded in raising the funds needed to begin construction in 1938. However, even after the exterior’s completion in late 1939, the chapel’s interior remained unfinished.

As you can see, the interior's curved forms echo the Art Deco style on the outside. (This picture, the postcard above, and the aerial photo below are the only ones I didn't take.) 

Postscript: the "Madonna della Strada" — the Madonna of the "Way" or of the "Road" (la strada) —- is the patroness of the Jesuit order.

However, the name has a more particular significance. In the 1930s, Lake Shore Drive was being extended northward — by 1933, it had reached Foster Avenue. Had money not run out during the Great Depression, plans to extend it further north might have been realized around the time that Madonna della Strada was completed. The church is designed so that its front door would open out on to the Lake Drive — and its patroness, the “Madonna of the Roadway” — would look over the cars on the route. However, the Lake Drive was never extended past its 1957 terminus at Hollywood — and so Madonna della Strada’s front doors open on to the shore of Lake Michigan.

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