Second Presbyterian Church, located at 1936 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood, was officially designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior on Monday March 11, 2013. National Historic Landmark status represents the highest recognition for buildings and sites that are determined by the Secretary of the Interior to possess national significance in American culture and history. Second Presbyterian joins previously designated National Historic Landmarks in Chicago including Hull House, Glessner House, Crown Hall, Robie House, the Pullman Historic District, and the Site of the First Self-Sustaining Nuclear Reaction.
A statement issued by the Department of the Interior states that “Second Presbyterian Church represents the visual and philosophical precepts of the turn of the century Arts and Crafts design movement. Its interior, the masterwork of noted architect Howard Van Doren Shaw, presents some of the finest examples of Arts and Crafts mural painting, sculpture, stained glass and crafting in metals, fabrics, wood and plaster.”
The sanctuary of Second Presbyterian Church is widely regarded as one of the largest and best preserved Arts and Crafts interiors in the nation, created in 1900-1901 following a devastating fire which destroyed the sanctuary but left the exterior limestone walls intact. The design was the work of Howard Van Doren Shaw, a highly-regarded Chicago architect who studied the emerging English Arts and Crafts movement extensively and used its ideals to create an American version of the style in buildings ranging from private residences to factories. Shaw enlisted other leading Chicago craftsman to help design the interior of the church including muralist Frederic Clay Bartlett, stained glass artisans Giannini & Hilgart, and lighting designer Willy H. Lau. The sanctuary also contains a wealth of important stained glass windows including nine by the firm of Louis Comfort Tiffany, and two rare English windows designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones and manufactured by Morris & Company.
Second Presbyterian Church, founded in 1842, has been an important cultural institution and community center since it opened at its present location in 1874, serving a multi-cultural congregation, and providing programming including After School Matters, a concert series and much more. Friends of Historic Second Church, a separate not-for-profit organization formed in 2006, has as their mission to “preserve and restore the internationally recognized art and architecture of Chicago’s landmark Second Presbyterian Church, educate a worldwide audience about its historical and cultural significance, and share those resources with the community.”
Tours of the church are offered by Friends on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 1:00 to 3:00pm and on Sundays at 12:15pm. For further information on tours and the art and architectural treasures of the church, visit www.2ndpresbyterianfriends.org or call 800-657-0687.