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Second Presbyterian Church - National Fund For Sacred Places
2019 Cohort

Second Presbyterian Church

Chicago, Illinois

Second Presbyterian Church is one of the oldest congregations in Chicago and the Midwestern masterpiece of celebrated church architect James Renwick Jr.

Second Presbyterian Church courtesy Second Presbyterian Church
Second Presbyterian Church courtesy Second Presbyterian Church
2019 Cohort

Second Presbyterian Church

Chicago, Illinois

Second Presbyterian Church is one of the oldest congregations in Chicago and the Midwestern masterpiece of celebrated church architect James Renwick Jr.

Founded in 1842, the congregation met in two different churches, including a Renwick-designed church that was destroyed by a fire, prior to commissioning its present building, completed in 1874. Renwick’s design exemplified the ornamental possibilities of the Gothic Revival style with Second Presbyterian Church. After another fire destroyed the church’s interior in 1900, Chicago architect Howard Van Doren Shaw created what is now one of the best-preserved Arts and Crafts interiors in America. The interior includes murals by Frederic Clay Bartlett and stained-glass windows by Tiffany Studios and other important artists. Booker T. Washington spoke at Second Presbyterian in 1901 and again in 1908, 50 years before the church became racially integrated.

Today, Second Presbyterian Church “celebrates its multi-cultural roots and its diverse membership,” according to the congregation. Since 1986, the congregation has provided weekly meals and fellowship to 250 guests facing housing and food instability. The church leads a series of youth programs for low-income students and participates in a successful tutoring program. In collaboration with other churches and organizations, Second Presbyterian Church also holds a winter coat drive, provides a free Thanksgiving meal for low-income neighbors, and hosts a summer camp for underprivileged children.

A National Fund grant of $250,000 and $629,481 in matching funds raised by the congregation allowed Second Presbyterian Church to create “safe spaces for all” through overhauling the electrical system, replacing HVAC units, repairing plumbing facilities, and restoring three of their main meeting spaces. The work increased the amount of usable space in the building for church members and the larger community. 

Second Presyterian Church courtesy Second Presbyterian Church

Second Presyterian Church courtesy Second Presbyterian Church

A Postcard Tour of Historic Houses of Worship

The vast quantity of postcards depicting historic houses of worship is best evidenced through the James R. Tanis Collection of Church Postcards. The collection of more than 20,000 postcards illuminates the range of religious architecture in the United States from monumental cathedrals to one-room meeting houses. Read more for a postcard tour highlighting the history and significance of select congregations in the National Fund for Sacred Places.

James R. Tanis Collection of Church Postcards

Stories and Media Coverage

Read more about how the National Fund for Sacred Places is helping congregations around the country rehabilitate their sacred places.

Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church by Luis P. Gutierrez