Art & History

The Gothic Revival building that currently houses Second Presbyterian Church was designed by architect James Renwick and completed in 1874. Renwick is famous for his Gothic architecture and was the designer of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and the Smithsonian Castle in Washington D.C. He had also designed the original building for Second Presbyterian Church, known as the Spotted Church, that stood at the northeast corner of Washington and Wabash Streets in Chicago until it was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
After a fire destroyed the roof and much of the nave of the current church in 1900, it was rebuilt by architect and life-long church member Howard Van Doren Shaw. Shaw collaborated with his friend Frederic Clay Bartlett, a muralist, for the project. Influenced by the English and American Arts and Crafts movement, Shaw and Bartlett gave the church the beautiful design and decoration that it has today.
The church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. In 1977, the City Council of Chicago designated it a Chicago Landmark.
Among the artistic works at Second Presbyterian Church are more than twenty stained glass windows by artists such as Louis C. Tiffany, Healy and Millet, William Fair Kline, and Sir Edward Burne-Jones. Second is also fortunate to possess a hand-carved limestone baptismal font, fashioned in Florence, Italy (donated in the 1880s and pictured above), and a bronze Celtic cross, made on the island of Iona, off the coast of Scotland (given in 1957). There are over 175 representations of angels in the church, 13 Pre-Raphaelite murals by Bartlett, and myriad other visual treasures that make Second Presbyterian Church a place of truly remarkable beauty.

A separate non-profit organization, Friends of Historic Second Church, strives to raise funds for the preservation and restoration of the church’s art and architecture.

Please also visit our Window Gallery.