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Chicago Sun Jul 26 2009

Saint Boniface Is a Danger to Residents

...not a project for preservationists or some sort of symbol of the Archdiocese's spite.

Two years ago (almost exactly) I wrote this about Saint Boniface church:

Saint Boniface -- the saint, not the long-abandoned church at the northeast corner of Noble and Chestnut on the city's near northwest side -- was a German saint. He was a high-ranking official in the Church who had converted and grown Catholicism throughout much of Germany before a group of as-yet unconverted heathens fell upon him and 52 of his fellow travelers on the banks of the River Borne.

Well, good for him, but seriously, can we do something about this church? For those of us who live in its very near vicinity, Saint Boniface causes no little consternation. For years, crackheads and meth addicts lived in the rectory north of the church. Local hoods use the church as a staging ground for breaking into cars and homes, since it constitutes nearly an entire city block without prying eyes. The convent which once stood east of the building, on Chestnut, is now a pile of bricks, recalling something more like Beirut in 1986 than Chicago in 2007.

The need to preserve this beautiful and historical building needs to be balanced with the economic and physical safety of local residents. This morning, we woke up to a scary surprise. This:




Clearly, if somebody had been in the car, or walking by, they could have been seriously injured or just as likely killed. Killed by the neglect of the Archdiocese and inaction by the city. This is unacceptable. A buildings department official was on the scene to make a report. Let's see what the city does.

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Dennis Fritz / July 26, 2009 3:21 PM

I assume St. Bonfice Church is no longer being used for religious services.

The best way to deal with problems like those you describe is to use the property for some other purpose (or purposes). I went to grade school at St. Henry's on Granville and Hoyne. The school is now defunct. However, Truman college leases space in the building for ESL classes, Loyola has tranformed the vacant lot accross the street into a practice field, and a Vietnamese Catholic Church occupies the church space.

Turning a vacant space into a multi-use space wasn't easy. It required reaching out to various local organizations and took years. But it is usually the best way to prevent the kind of choas you're describing.

geekgrrl / July 26, 2009 6:57 PM

jesus. this is the valuable stuff that never seems to come up during the course of a preservationist's fight. thanks for the enlightenment.

SBI / July 30, 2009 4:25 PM

Although it would be easy to assume, without investigation, that the piece of decorative concrete, called a corbel, “fell” from the bell tower of Saint Boniface Church on it’s own, only several minutes of investigation and with the use of deductive reasoning one would find a different story.

The highest bell tower is the only part of the church where corbels matching the one that struck the van were used. If you look directly above where the van was located, you will see that all of the corbels are still in place. The only missing corbel that matches the one found on the van was taken out approximately 15 years ago in order to remove the bells via the south side (front) of the tower, not the west side where the van was parked.

A logical assumption can be made that someone got into the church, made their way up to the bell tower, found the piece of concrete lying where the bell removers left it and tossed it out of the tower on to the van in an act of vandalism. This assumption can be further backed up by the knowledge that there were and still are, two unsecured openings on the church as of today, 7-30-09. A small window opening on the front door of the church and a peeled back window covering on the east side of the church basement. With minimal exploration, it would be easy to find the route from these openings to the bell tower.

For pictures backing up the information above, refer to

Ramsin / July 30, 2009 7:07 PM

SBI, I don't think any of this would make the person who could have been crushed in their car feel better. Just because it didn't fall right off the structure, the fact that there are huge pieces of mason work laying around and that the building is easily infiltrated by random vandals is hardly going to make anybody feel better.

SBI / July 30, 2009 10:31 PM

I completely agree that knowing where and how the piece came crashing into the vehicle is no consolation to the owner of the van or anyone who may have been hurt or killed. It was only my intention to inform those who would automatically judge from a photograph or two the structural integrity of this still magnificent building. Although the Archdiocese is ultimately responsible for securing their property, the blame for this random act of disregard for others property and possibly human life should be placed on the vandal who did this.

Ramsin / July 30, 2009 10:40 PM

It should be a community decision whether the church should be destroyed or maintained--the church is beautiful and, even though not used for services any longer, clearly a part of the community's character.

But something needs to be done. Big pieces of concerete are falling of it and crushing things. That needs to stop. If we can't stop those types of things--and so many other things--from happening while the building stays up, then probably the building should be torn down. But the status quo isn't safe.

Mike / July 31, 2009 12:28 AM

Pieces are not "falling" off of it and crushing things. I agree with SBI ... someone THREW it off.

If the Archdiocese of Chicago responsibly secured their vacant property, like everyone else in the City is required to do, this wouldn't have happened.

The Archdiocese has not, even till today, been responsible land owners when it comes to Saint Boniface. The reason someone had enough time to force entry through a steel widow cover is because they had plenty of cover from the 5 foot weeds.

It was also let out by a City official, years ago, that all property fines against the Archdiocese of Chicago are waved by the City, a perk that you and I would not enjoy! Read the links below.,CST-NWS-vacant21web.article

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