This venerable church was damaged in the intense blizzard that struck Chicago in February of this year. Rooftop masonry was dislodged and tumbled to the street - and through the roof, into the sanctuary. The damage to the historic building was considerable, and it was immediately boarded up.
In far too many cases, this would be the beginning of a long, slow decline for such an aged church in an older city neighborhood. In this case, however, quite the opposite happened: insurance, bolstered by donations from an enthusiastic and sizable congregation, covered the damage and spurred additional interior work. The south size of the sanctuary is getting a new roof, a work still in progress, and the organ pipes are still out for repairs.
But the bulk of the interior work is finished; and thus, this Sunday, a mere seven months after the blizzard, churchgoers returned to the sanctuary for services.
And what a sanctuary it is!
First Congregational was begun in 1869 as Union Park Congregational Baptist (architect: Gurdon P. Randall.) It opened in 1871; later that year the Great Chicago Fire burned much of the city to the east (though it never came close to the Union Park area.) Union Park Congregational housed city offices for a time in the fire's aftermath; it would go on to have a long, storied history; in the 20th century, it has been a common stop for visiting presidents.
First Baptist Congregational was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.