One of Hyde Park’s proud historic landmarks, the main building of the United Church of Hyde Park was designed by architect Gregory A. Vigeant in 1889. Noteworthy are the large stained glass windows, the beautiful painted ceiling and the twelve-sided dome with the names of the apostles inscribed. The building was extensively remodeled in 1924, adding new decor, pews and a cork floor. The cork floor provides excellent acoustics for the Skinner Organ.
Originally known as the First Presbyterian Church of Hyde Park, the current edifice was built by the Presbyterian congregation of which Paul Cornell, one of the founders of Hyde Park, was a charter member. Merging with the Hyde Park Congregational Church in 1930 and with the Hyde Park Methodist Church in 1970, the expanded worshiping community became known as the United Church of Hyde Park.
A brief history of the
United Church of Hyde Park
On the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the founding of the
Hyde Park Presbyterian Church, May 1860
In the early days of the Village of Hyde Park, when Paul Cornell and others were beginning to plan a community away from the city, the Protestant residents of the area worshiped together in a small white frame chapel at what is now 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue. Cornell himself had donated the land and had the chapel built in 1858. A formal organization was begun in May 1860, and it was by a close vote that the group decided to affiliate with the Presbyterian denomination. There were sixteen charter members.
A Sunday School was formally organized in March, 1862 and the officers of the church went about with diligence to minister to the children and youth of the growing community. A stone church was built at the northeast corner of 53rd Street at Blackstone Avenue in 1869. The early decades were years of nationwide upheavals due to the civil War and Reconstruction, followed by the local tragedy of the Chicago fire in 1871. The fire brought financial hardship to many of the church families, but members also responded with generous assistance to the homeless and needy of the city. Hyde Park grew rapidly and soon the 1869 stone church was too small for the congregation. The large building still in use was constructed in 1889. In 1923-24 there was an extensive remodeling of the sanctuary, a configuration which is still in use.
During its early years the church started missions and established Sunday Schools in Woodlawn, Parkside, and Rosalie Hall (57th and Harper) for the convenience of its members who lived in the southern sections of the community. In November 1885 a group of 24 people met to organize as a Congregational Church. In 1887 they built a chapel on the northwest corner of 56th Street at Dorchester. Ten years later, a generous bequest from Deacon O. H. Platt enabled them to construct a new, larger building designed by Irving Pond. With the establishment of the University of Chicago in the area in 1892, leading Congre-gationalists throughout the city were impressed with the opportunity for work among students there. At this time the name of the church was changed to University Congregational Church. In the late 1920s, the name was changed to Hyde Park Congregational Church, to reflect the broader scope of the community as a whole.
In both churches the women’s societies played a significant role in philanthropic and mission work, as well as financial support. In the early days when trips to the city for entertainment were difficult and infrequent, the societies gave many delightful programs which added much to the social fabric of the community. The Congregational church was among the first to include women on all its official boards.
During the winter of 1929-30 the idea of uniting the Presbyterian and Congregational churches began to develop. The churches were similar in theology and mission, and both were soon to be without pastors. Committees representing both groups met and worked out a plan for consolidation, which was adopted effective October 1, 1930. The first service of the United Church was held on October 5, 1930, with Dr. Ozora Davis serving as interim pastor. Dr. Davis had recently retired as president of Chicago Theological Seminary, which had moved from the west side of Chicago to Hyde Park during his tenure. The Chicago Tribune (Sept. 28, 1930) called the merger “one of the outstanding developments in local Protestant church history.”
Records of various church activities show a concern about conditions during the Depression years, study of major issues of the day, and support for local social service agencies and foreign missions.
In September 1889, a dozen people gathered at a local home to establish a Methodist Episcopal church in Hyde Park. They first met in a vacant store at 5344 Lake Park Avenue, and then built a small chapel at 54th and Blackstone. With increased membership, the congregation was able to construct a larger building on the same site. It was dedicated on Easter Sunday, 1909. This church also had active Home and Foreign Missionary Societies, youth organizations, and women’s groups. Its benevolence included sponsorship of persons displaced by war in Europe, and of Americans of Japanese descent who had been removed from west coast states and confined to remote “camps” after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Significant changes took place in the area after the war years. The second “Great Migration” of African-Americans brought many to the south side of Chicago. Urban Renewal was also taking place during this time. Many white families left the area. Residents were forced to consider–and respond to–the possibility of multi-racial communities and churches. Various community organizations worked to assure that Hyde Park would be a viable multi-racial area on the south side. The Methodist Church was among the first in Hyde Park to embrace this change. A report on the church school in 1955-56 makes first reference to having a multi-racial student body.
Both the United Church and the Methodist Church experienced declining membership and budget deficits in the late 1960s. The proximity of the two buildings prompted both congregations to consider a merger. It began with a shared facilities agreement and a joint Sunday School. The formal agreement for a “union church” representing all three denominations was completed in the fall of 1970. The Methodist church building at the southeast corner of 54th and Blackstone was demolished in 1977 and a group of townhouses was built on the site.
The United Church has continued its ministry in a variety of ways. Study groups, community outreach to serve needs such as support for victims of crime, hunger, and homelessness, and youth activities have predominated. Various fundraising activities have been conducted: Holiday Bazaar, International Festival, musical programs, and rummage sales. In 1991, Alta Blakely suggested putting on a quilt show to raise money to maintain the church’s fine old Skinner Organ. The April 2010 show was the 20th annual.
Happy are those who dwell in thy house: they never cease from praising thee. Psalm 84:4
Text by Carol Bradford, April 2010
Worship Symbolism In the
United Church of Hyde Park
A group of Protestants of the Reformed Tradition (primarily Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Methodists) began, in the late 1850s, to worship in a small white clapboard chapel, donated by the “father ” of Hyde Park, Paul Cornell. The groups formally organized in May 1860, and affiliated with the Presbyterian denomination. There were 16 charter members. By 1869, the growth of the community and the congregation was such that the trustees decided that a larger structure was needed. They developed a list of specifications and contacted a dozen architectural firms. They selected a design by Gregory Vigeant, which met their requirement that the original stone church be dismantled and some of the materials be used in the new structure. The total cost was about $45,000.
The large stained glass window in the fellowship hall, inscribed “Service” is a memorial to William Henry Ray, a trustee of the Church at the time of his death in August 1889, at age 31 years. He had been principal of Hyde Park High School and assistant superintendent of the church school. The Ray Elementary School on Kimbark Avenue at 57th Street is named after him.
The first service in the new building was held in January 1890. Originally, the sanctuary stretched all the way to the west wall, both large stained glass windows being full visible. The pulpit and ministers’ chairs were in the center of the chancel, organ and choir loft were on the left side and a small anteroom leading to the side exit door was on the right. At the turn of the century, a 2-story addition housing the present kitchen and three Sunday school rooms was added on the northeast corner of the building, at a cost o9f $4,500.
In 1923-24, a major re-modeling of the sanctuary was done, at a cost of $119,000. The balcony was added, with Romanesque arches and columns marking three sides. The design symbolizes strength and solidity. A new Skinner organ was installed. That organ is still in use. During the renovation, services were conducted at the nearby Harper Theatre.
The only memorial window in the sanctuary was added in 1900, in honor of elders William Olmsted and Charles Arms. They died in 1898 when a fire consumed their place of business–a school supply company–at 215 South Wabash, trapping them inside. The window is a testament to their lives, which were based on the Word of God, blossomed and bore fruit in beauty, and led by still waters and through green pastures upward to the hills and the City of God. The other windows are among the earliest examples of impressionist church art; they create a varied pattern of light as the sun shines through them. We have found no information to identify the designer of the large windows.
Sixteen censer-shaped lamps made of hand-wrought iron hang between the columns on the north, east, and south sides of the sanctuary. They represent the sixteen charter members of the Presbyterian Church.
The center dome has twelve sides, representing wholeness or eternity. Each bears the name of one of the apostles, including Matthias, who replaced Judas. Images of angels cover the entire ceiling: complete angels in the large arches, diminishing to heads surrounded by wings in the small inner circles nearest the dome.
Carved wooden panels mark either side of the chancel. One bears a representation of the burning bush from which God spoke to Moses. The Latin inscription “Nec Tamen Consumebatus” means “neither shall we be consumed.” The corner posts, decorated with olive sprays, symbolize peace, derived from the flood story, in which a dove sent out by Noah returned with an olive branch in its bill. The other rail, built in 1946, contains a center panel depicting the Good Samaritan. It is a memorial to Alexander H. Davis MD, killed aboard a U.S. Navy ship near Okinawa in 1945.
A carved eagle, the sign of the gospel-writer John, dominates the raised pulpit on the left side of the sanctuary. The referenced verse, II Timothy 2:15 reads: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (RSV)
The altar at the center of the chancel was made by Frank Bosworth and Charles Rittenhouse. It represents the ancient sacrificial table. The brass cross and candlesticks were given to the church by Dr. and Mrs. Alexander H. (Jo) Davis, in memory of his father, Dr. Ozora Davis, former president of Chicago Theological Seminary and interim pastor of the United church in 1930, when the Presbyterian and Congregational churches merged. The empty cross, the central symbol of the Christian church, signifies the risen Christ. The three steps on which the cross rests stand for faith, hope, and love. The candles represent Christ as Light of the World. The colors of the cloth on the alter are changed to coincide with the liturgical season.
The organ and choir loft screen bears the names of great hymn writers, inscribed on rolls, scrolls, and seals. They are David (the Psalmist), Gregory (328-297 AD), Ephraim (373 BC), Ambrose (340-397 AD), Martin Luther (1438-1546), Clement Marat (a contemporary of Luther), Henri Malan (1787-1864), Christina Rosetti (1830-1894), George Wither ((1588-1667), Isaac Watts (1674-1748), Charles Wesley (1707-1788), John Wesley (1703-1791), Frederick Faber (1814-1863), and George Duffield (1818-1888). On either side of these names are the Greek letters alpha and omega, the first and last (signifying the beginning and the end.)
The baptismal font, made by Yellin of Philadelphia of hand-wrought iron, was a gift given by Mr. and Mrs. W. Coates Foresman in memory of his father, the Rev. Robert Brown Foresman. Its octagonal shape symbolized regenerations. The baptismal formula, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” is inscribed around the bowl. A St. Andrew’s cross serves as the handle. The eight panels bear, in order, the images of the dove and tongue of fire, symbolizing baptism of the Holy Spirit; the lamp of knowledge; the torch and olive wreath, emblems of peace; and nativity star and the gifts of the three Wise Men; the world surmounted by a cross, atop the three steps of faith, hope, and love, with an outer from representing the trinity; a sunflower, emblem of the sun, the source of life; an anchor and a fish, representing hope in Christ; and the Lamb, of Revelation 5, the symbol of the sacrifice of Christ.
The church house addition, on the east side along 53rd Street, was completed in 1962, a memorial to long-time members, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Rittenhouse. Five stained glass windows which originally hung in the Congregational Church building at 56th and Dorchester are installed in the chapel. The windows were designed by Rev. Frederick F. Dewhurst, pastor of the church, and made by Leyendecker. The themes of the window are the Law, represented by Moses and Aaron, memorializing Deacon O. W. Platt; the Psalms, represented y David and Solomon, memorializing Mr. C. P. Van Inwegen; the Prophets, represented by Jeremiah and Daniel, memorializing Mr. Edwin Burritt Smith; and the Gospels, represented by Matthew and John, memorializing Rev. Dewhurst.
The meeting room on the lower level was named in honor of Mrs. Philip (Ollie) Mathieson. She was very active in church school work, and noted for her dramatic productions on special occasions throughout the church year.
The meeting room just inside the Blackstone entrance is a memorial to long-time member Walter Hauschildt, who died in the early 1980s. The room on the northwest corner of the building is a memorial to Shigeru Hashimoto, a long-time and very active member who originally came to Hyde Park from a Japanese Relocation camp in the mid-1940s, under sponsorship by the Methodist church. He died on Easter Sunday, April 4, 1995.
Text by Carol Bradford, based primarily on material prepared in the late 1940s by Rev. George Gibson, during his pastorate of the church.
From the archives of the Hyde Park Presbyterian Church
In May 1910, on the occasion of the church’s Fiftieth Anniversary, a weeklong celebration was held. One highlight was an “Historical Address Illustrated with Lantern Slides,” narrated by Mrs. J. A. Gilchrist. The entire presentation included nearly 100 glass slides, which are still held in the church office.
The photographs and related narrative here are from that program. Additional information was obtained from other sources listed below.
- Block, Jean, Hyde Park Houses. University of Chicago Press, 1979.
- Carpenter, Simon. Unpublished monograph on the 1875 mission of Major Cole in Gloucester, England. 2006.
- Fiftieth Anniversary, Published by Hyde Park Presbyterian Church, 1910. All references in quotations are from this source, unless otherwise noted.
- “History of Hyde Park High School,” Yearbook of Hyde Park High School, 1893.
- Pierce, Bessie Louise, History of Chicago Vol. II 1848-1871. University of Chicago Press, 1940.
- Thurston, Charlotte S. “In Memory of William Henry Ray,” Yearbook of Hyde Park High School, 1893
- The University of Chicago Centennial Catalogues (via website)
- Unsigned and undated “Biography of Paul Cornell,” produced by his descendants, ca. 1980.
- Wikipedia: Norman B. Judd, George Frederick Root, Jonathan Young Scammon, Henry Clay Work.
Photographic Production by Michael A. Bradford
Research and Text by Carol Bradford
Graphics by Aisha Harris Bradford
Financial support for this exhibit was provided by
Charles Custer and the Hyde Park Historical Society
FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
HYDE PARK PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
1860 – 1910
MAY FIRST TO EIGHTH NINETEEN HUNDRED AND TEN
Born August 5, 1922 at White Creek, Washington County, New York. His earliest American ancestors came to Boston from Essex, England in 1638. A cousin, Ezra Cornell, founded Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
Father, Hiram King Cornell died while Paul was very young. His mother, Elizabeth Hopkins Cornell later married a physician, Jonathan Barry. The family moved to Ohio in 1831, and then to Beardstown, Illinois in 1836. Paul began to study law there, completing his studies in Joliet a few years later. He was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1847. He moved to Chicago then and formed several law partnerships.
In 1852 he employed a man to do a topographical survey of what is now Hyde Park Township. He envisioned a residential area connected to the city by train, a light industry area away from the residential district; a heavy industrial area and harbor, and great parks within the village. He purchased 300 acres of land in what is now the Hyde Park community in 1853. Later he bought another thousand acres which became the industrial area farther south. He sold lots for residential development and subsidized the Illinois Central Railroad commuter service for a time until it became self-sufficient. As the community grew, he donated lands and funds for a place of worship, schools, and park space.
He built hotels in Hyde Park and in the Grand Crossing area. He established the Cornell Watch Company, the Republic Life Insurance Company and the American Bronze Company, which cast the Art Institute lions. In association with U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas and John Wentworth, he formed the first Chicago Canal and Dock Company,
He was a charter member of Hyde Park Presbyterian Church, organized in 1860. After a dispute with other trustees over the construction of a new building in 1889, he became a charter member of the Hyde Park Methodist Church, organized that same year. He was a founder of Oak Woods Cemetery. He took leadership to establish of the South Park System, which led to the development of Washington and Jackson Parks, and the Midway Plaisance.
Paul Cornell and Helen Maria Gray were married in 1856. Her family, of Mayflower ancestry, was from Bowdoinham, Massachusetts. Her sisters were also married to prominent Chicago founders: John Evans, a founder of Evanston, IL and later governor of Colorado; Orrington Lunt, a founder of Northwestern University; and George Kimbark, early Hyde Park developer and later the founder of Riverside, IL. Paul and Helen had seven children.. Cornell died on Mary 3, 1903 and is buried in Oak Woods Cemetery. Helen died in 1912. Several of their descendants are members of the Historical Society and remain in contact with the Board of Directors.
Illinois Central Railroad
One of the keys to the successful development of a residential village was the establishment of a commuter rail service to the central city. These slides document the arrangement Cornell made with the Illinois Central Rail Road to assure the continuation of its commuter service in the mid-1850s.
The Illinois Central first ran a suburban train to Hyde Park on June 1st, 1856, and continued to do so till the fall of the following year when the receipts of the train dropped to so low a point, due to the paralyzing effect of the panic of ’57, that President Osborne threatened to discontinue it. I had but just platted the sub-division of Hyde Park and was endeavoring to attract people from the city as permanent residents. The train was an absolute necessity, and to secure its retention I made the contract referred to in the above account. This contract provided that I individually should pay to the Illinois Central each month an amount equal to 33 1/3 of the tickets sold. George B. McClellan, afterwards General in Chief of the United States Army, was, then Vice President of the Company. The above paper bears his signature in the endorsement to the Auditor, and was one of the accounts rendered me by the Road in pursuance of the contract.
Signed Paul Cornell
Chicago, March 27th, 1901
First church building in Hyde Park
The original chapel stood in a grove of oak trees at the corner of Oak (53rd) Street and Hyde Park Avenue. At first, all denominations worshipped together, but as they grew in numbers, the Presbyterians met in the morning, and Episcopalians in the afternoon. The First Presbyterian Church of Hyde Park was formally organized with sixteen charter members on May 6, 1860. “In eight years the congregation outgrew the chapel, so another location was secured at the corner of Adams and Oak Street [now 53rd Street and Blackstone Avenue]. Religious worship was held in the old chapel for the last time on April 3, 1870……..As a matter of fact, the church was only moved around the corner of the lost and faced upon Hyde Park Avenue instead of Oak street. It became the Town Hall, and a strong basement was built underneath to accommodate prisoners. The Hyde Park jail still occupies the spot. The old building was moved to 79th Place and Madison avenue in 1892, where it was used as a hotel during the World’s Fair. It has since been burned. As a church, jail and World’s Fair boarding house it has been quite a factor in the discipline of the world.”
Foot of 53rd Street
“It was the custom of the church ladies to give a picnic in the park at the foot of 53rd Street every Fourth of July to raise money for the stone church. The men would sell tickets among their friends down town or on the Illinois Central train. The Illinois Central gave them special rates, and it seemed as if almost the whole city of Chicago attended. It was at one of these Fourth of July picnics that the lemonade got salted! The day was hot, supplies soon fell short, and everybody was thirsty, so they had to take the ice used for freezing the ice cream to cool the lemonade. They washed it off to the best of their ability, but it salted the lemonade sufficiently to make everybody more thirsty, and they kept coming back for more. It was a great occasion and netted the ladies $1100.”
First stone church
The first stone Church was built in 1869. The Sabbath school rooms were in the lower level, with the main sanctuary in the great room upstairs. There was an inscription over the pulpit, reading “Let the People Praise Thee, O God. Let all the People Praise Thee.” This structure was dismantled in 1889, with some of the stones used in the present church, now the United Church of Hyde Park, which was completed later than year.
George Frederick Root
George Frederick Root was born in rural Massachusetts on August 30, 1820. He studied piano at the Boston Academy of Music under noted hymn writer, Lowell Mason. He and Mason, along with another celebrated hymnist, Williams Bradbury, established the New York Normal Institute, dedicated to training music teachers. Root composed music for the classes he taught there. With the outbreak of the Civil War, he wrote more than 30 war songs, including “Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!” and “The Battle Cry of Freedom.” His brother, Ebenezer Root, founded the music publishing firm Root & Cady in Chicago in 1858. George became a partner in 1860 and selected and edited works for publication. By 1867, Root and Cady claimed sales of 350,000 copies of “The Battle Cry of Freedom.” After HPP built its first stone church, Mr. Root conducted a weekly song service there. He died August 6, 1895.
Henry Clay Work was born October 1, 1832 in Middletown, CT, the son of a prominent abolitionist. He was a self-taught musician. By his early 20s, he was working as a printer in Chicago, specializing in setting musical type. His home at what is now the rear portion of a house at 5317 S. Dorchester is the oldest house in Hyde Park, built before 1860. He was a charter member of the Hyde Park Presbyterian Church and played the melodeon for services held in the white frame chapel. It is said that during that time, he didn’t have a piano of his own.
His first published song was “We Are Coming, Sister Mary,” which was often sung in musical shows presented by the Christy Minstrels. During the Civil War years, he wrote many songs which became very popular in the northern states: “Kingdom Coming,” “Babylon is Fallen,” and his best known work, “Marching Through Georgia,” which was published by the Chicago firm of Root and Cady. Some of his compositions were used years later in Broadway shows and films. He died in Hartford, CT on June 8, 1884. He was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 1970.
Hassan Hopkins was Paul Cornell’s uncle, the brother of his mother, Eliza. He was born in Washington County New York in 1814. He and his wife were charter members of the church and he was the senior elder. He always held the baptismal bowl when infants were baptized. Mrs. Hopkins was affectionately known as “Auntie Hop.” She “was not ashamed to take her pail and scrub brush over to the chapel on Saturday and scrub it clean for Sunday, and she made the bread for the communions services. Mrs. Hopkins and her daughter Annie were the kind of women who invite little folk into the kitchen” for cookies which she served after church meetings. They lived at 5211 Cornell. He operated the first grocery store in Hyde Park.
“Once upon a time there was a little girl whose earliest recollections of life began on Hyde Park Avenue….Just outside of her backyard was a terrible monster that went to and from the city of Chicago four times a day. Every time she heard the engine coming she would scamper in the house just as fast as she could go, because she was sure that if it ever got off the track it would come right in the yard and chase her. On the other side of the Illinois Central right of way were the great big woods, so dense that she knew there were bears and wolves there.”
The little girl started school, where her “teacher was Mrs. Parsons, whose picture we must show, because she started so many of the boys and girls who grew up in this church on the royal road to knowledge. She taught the first grade in the Hyde Park Public Schools for 40 years. Mrs. [H. A.] Parsons attended this church, as did her father and mother. Mr. and Mrs. Silas R. Ball.”
James H. Cole and his wife, Helen L. Cole joined the church on May 5, 1871. He was Superintendent of the Sunday School from 1873-1875. He also organized a young men’s group which distributed tracts and New Testaments throughout the neighborhood. At some point he gave up his business and became a preacher and evangelist, traveling throughout the U.S. In 1875, he preached at Gloucester, England, as part of an evangelistic campaign featuring another well-known Chicago preacher, Dwight L. Moody. His wife and daughter joined him for a vocal trio which provided music for the services.
Judge Homer N. Hibbard and his wife Jane joined HPP in October 1862. He was, for a time, a law partner of Paul Cornell. He served as president of the Hyde Park village school board, and was an officer in the Mendelssohn Club of Hyde Park, a vocal music club for men. He operated a wholesale hardware business, Hibbard & Spencer, which sold nails and other iron and copper goods used for stovepipes, washboilers, buckets, and guns. In 1885 he was on the Executive Committee of the Art Institute of Chicago. He was a Life Director of the Chicago Astronomical Society and Second Vice President of the Chicago Academy of Sciences. Hibbard Street, now Kenwood Avenue, was named for him. He lived at 5335 Jefferson Avenue (now Harper).
Norman Buel Judd was born in Rome, New York on Jan 10, 1815. He studied law and began his practice in Rome. He moved to Chicago in 1836. Initially he and his wife were members of the Second Presbyterian Church, located at that time at Wabash and Washington Streets, then transferred to the Hyde Park Presbyterian Church.
Mr. Judd served as the Chicago City attorney 1837-1839. He was a director of the Chicago & Rock Island Railroad and the Chicago & Milwaukee Railroad. He also worked as an attorney for the Illinois Central Railroad. He served as a member of the Illinois State Senate 1844-1860. He was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1860, during which he worked diligently to secure the nomination of Abraham Lincoln as president. Upon his election, President Lincoln appointed him as ambassador to Prussia, a post which he held from March 1861 to 1865. He served two terms in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1867 to 1871, and supported the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. In his congressional campaigns he was an early supporter of the 8-hour work day. He was appointed collector of the Port of Chicago by President Grant in 1872 and served in that post until his death on November 11, 1878. He is buried at Graceland Cemetery on the north side of the city.
Mrs. Judd was known as the “mother” of the church’s Ladies’ Missionary Society, organized in 1869. “If we could only show you these women in their youth and beauty! Mrs. Judd at that time was tall and very slender, with dark hair, and a clear delicate skin. She had a beautiful face that expressed her lovely character. The society met at her home on Forty-seventh Street, in the house that was afterward used by the Kenwood Club.” The couple owned 10 acres of land at the southeast corner of 47th Street and Woodlawn Avenue.
Claudius B. Nelson and his wife Mary joined Hyde Park Presbyterian Church in November 1867. He served as an Elder from 1867 to 1880. They lived at 5714 S. Dorchester, a house which still stands. When he purchased it in the late 1860s, the property included all of the west side of Dorchester and the east side of Kenwood to 58th Street. “By 1889 most of Dorchester Avenue between 57th and 59th streets had been developed by Claudius B. Nelson and his son Walter, a building contractor. The flat roofed town houses on the west side of the street, built before 1882, reflect Nelson’s belief in the future of the community and its inevitable urbanization. Across the street, the semidetached brick Queen Anne houses show the Nelsons keeping up with the changes in style, but still getting good use from the land.”
Block, p, 43.
Jonathan Young Scammon was born July 27, 1812 in Whitefield, Maine. When he arrived in Chicago in 1835, at age 23 years, he was already an attorney and member of the Whig Party. He was a law partner of Norman Judd 1839 – 1847. In 1844, he founded the city’s first newspaper the Chicago Journal, a Whig-leaning paper that eventually became associated with the Republican Party. He and William Butler Ogden built the first railroad from Chicago in 1848, the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad. In 1851, he founded the Marine Bank. He served as President of the Chicago Board of Education. He joined Paul Cornell and others to establish Oak Woods Cemetery and was its first president. He was one of a group of men who met in 1856 to organize the Chicago Historical Society, initially serving as Vice President and later as President.. When he suffered great financial losses after disastrous fires in the city in 1871 and 1874, he retired to his wife’s 20-acre estate, called Fernwood Villa, located on the north side of what is now the Midway Plaisance. Through bequest and purchase, the Scammon property became the site of the Laboratory Schools of the University of Chicago
Charles Hitchcock was born in Hanson, Massachusetts in 1827. He graduated from Dartmouth College and attended Law School and Harvard College. He and his wife, Annie McClure Hitchcock, lived at 4741 S. Greenwood, in a home built in 1861. His wife’s family had come to Chicago in 1837. She owned land at 48th and Greenwood on which her protégé, Dwight Perkins built the home at 1120 East 48th Street for J. J. Wait in 1898. Mr. Hitchcock was a founder of the Chicago Bar Association, and was president of the 1870 Illinois Constitutional Convention. His wife donated money for a men’s dormitory at the University of Chicago in his honor. Mrs. Hitchcock was, for many years, the treasurer of the HPP Ladies’ Missionary Society “because she had a horse and could get around to collect the dues, for the money was raised by weekly pledges. Mrs. Hitchcock’s mother, Mrs. McClure, was a wonderful worker, not only in the Missionary Society, but in the Ladies’ Aid as well. Her laces and her caps were so dainty, and she pieced such lovely silk quilts, that were sold for the benefit of the societies, and she invented the McClure apron, the sale of which brought many a dollar into the treasury of the Ladies’ Aid Society.”
William Henry Ray was born in New England on July 1, 1858, son of a minister. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1878, having worked as a teacher while there to help meet his expenses. He was a teacher in New York State, and in Waukegan, IL, and then moved to Hyde Park in 1883. He and his wife, Martha, joined the Hyde Park Presbyterian Church on February 29, 1884. They had a baby boy, Duncan, on April 14, 1884. The child died on August 29, 1885 and is buried at Oak Woods Cemetery. They had a daughter, Margaret, born December 16, 1887, who lived to adulthood. The family lived at 5316 S. Jefferson (now Harper) Avenue.
Mr. Ray was principal of Hyde Park High School from 1883 until his death in 1889. “Intellectually, Mr. Ray was a bright, keen, original thinker, with a mind of unusual activity and force. He possessed to a marked degree the genius for hard work, and in addition to his school work, was daily occupied with book reviews and articles for educational journals and associations. What he had to say upon educational topics was listened to by the world of schools and teachers as coming from one who spoke with authority. From his experience in the class room, he deduced principles and suggested methods worthy of wide application. His power as an instructor was great and unusual. To sit for an hour in his class room was an education and an inspiration to an ordinary teacher……Moreover his great, warm heart took in every boy and girl in school, and made each feel sooner or later that he had an especial interest in him……”
[Thurston, Charlotte S. “In Memory of William Henry Ray.” Yearbook of Hyde Park High School. 1893]
Mr. Ray was Assistant Superintendent of the Sabbath School of the church, and was also a trustee when the present building was constructed. Upon his death on July 3, 1889, the students of the Sabbath School raised money to install a memorial window in his honor in the fellowship hall of the church. The window is inscribed with his name and the simple motto “Service.” The church records report that 700 people attended his memorial service on September 8, 1889. He and his wife are buried at Oak Woods Cemetery alongside their young son.
William Olmsted was an elder in the church. His “blameless Christian life was an inspiration to the large class of boys he taught” [in the Sunday School]. Charles Arms, who lived at 5410 Blackstone, was a trustee at the time the current church building was erected in 1889. He “was so much to us in so many ways that we have no words to express our appreciation.” Olmsted owned a school supply company on Wabash Avenue downtown, where Mr. Arms was also employed. In 1892, there was a major fire which started on the elevated tracks on Wabash and spread to nearby office buildings. Both men died in the fire. There is a memorial window, a wreath inscribed with their names in the center, on the 53rd Street side of the church sanctuary.
Mr. and Mrs. James P. Root joined the church in November 1865. They lived at 5540 S. Blackstone. He was director of Hyde Park schools from 1852-1864, and was a Director of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Jackson Park in 1893. Mrs. Root was in charge of the infant class of the Sunday School. She “was one of the most efficient women of the early church, and her home was the scene of many a gathering.”
“The Ladies’ Aid Society was organized in 1874 by Mrs. Judd and her close friend, Mrs. Van H. Higgins. They came to Hyde Park from …the Second Presbyterian Church [which] was our mother church…..Beautiful Mrs. Higgins, with her cameo face and white curls, was always the Martha Washington at the annual colonial dinners given by the Ladies’ Aid Society. ….. After her death, Mrs. Talcott was president of the society.”
Mr. and Mrs. Samuel P. Farrington, lived “in a big house that was always open.” He was Superintendent of the Sunday School in 1871. She taught a Sunday School class for little girls, called “the Gleaners” in 1871.
Mr. Granville S. Ingraham bought the Farrington homestead in 1872.
Minard LeFever Beers “was born in Ohio in 1847. His father was a builder and named his son after the French architect and writer Minard LeFever…..His father’s ambitions for him being apparent from birth, Beers learned carpentry at home and then studied with Joseph Ireland, an architect in Cleveland, Ohio. Arriving in Chicago in 1871, he worked as a draughtsman for Otis Leonard Wheelock, and then went into partnership with Oscar Cobb for a few years. When he came to Hyde Park in 1877 he went into practice on his own.” Block, p. 90.
Homes of his design which are still standing are located at 5410 and 5411 S. Harper, and 5318 S. Blackstone.
Mrs. M. L. Beers was one of the women who helped to organize a ladies’ Home Missionary Society. She later became president. In the mid-1880s, one of its projects was to make up bed and table linen for the new Presbyterian Hospital, which was founded in 1884. “When Mrs. Beers moved into her new home on Jefferson [now Harper] Avenue she threw it open for a musical and a tea at which fifty dollars was raised for the society.”
“The little girl and her father drove to Woodlawn, to a white country school house with green blinds, and there her father conducted a Sabbath school that grew into the Woodlawn Presbyterian Church. And the little girl grew old enough to teach a class in the Park Side Sunday school, the next home missionary enterprise of the church. After that school had also grown into a self-supporting church, the young people who had been teaching there went to work Sunday afternoons in Rosalie Hall……and [later, they] rented a store on 55th Street, where they conducted weekly meetings. From these two beginnings resulted the South Park (University) Congregational Church.” Later the name was again changed, to Hyde Park Congregational Church. In 1930, the Presbyterian and Congregational Churches merged to form the original United Church of Hyde Park.
The early photograph is the site of the Congregational church building, located at the northwest corner of 56th Street and Dorchester Avenue.
“It was just before the Civil War that the church was organized, and two fine young men, Mr. Charles W. Everett and Mr. Curtiss Bogue, marched away from it to fight for freedom’s cause. The one, Mr. Everett, received a mortal wound at the battle of Belmont; the other, Mr. Bogue, returned home only to meet as tragic a death in the wreck of the Illinois Central Hyde Park train in 1869″
This installment is excerpted from an Historical Address delivered by Mr. John A. Cole, Senior Elder of the Hyde Park Presbyterian on Sunday, May 1, 1910, as recorded in Fiftieth Anniversary, published by the church later that year.
Fifty years ago [that is, in 1860] Hyde ark was a cluster of scattered houses, less than a score, dropped down among the oak trees. There was no store, no post office, no market, and a single passenger car on the Illinois Central, three times a day, was the only connection with the city except Purcell’s ox-cart, which served as an express to bring from the city barrels of flour and groceries. The one sidewalk, a board walk on Lake Avenue, was fringed with ferns and violets, wild flowers and strawberries.
The little white chapel was built by Mr. Paul Cornell, and stood in a grove of oak trees near the present site of the Hyde Park Bank, standing back from the street, which was merely a sandy country road. There was no janitor or other official, and the building was kept in order by the faithful care of families living near.
[By 1867] the country had already passed through its years of conflict in the Civil War, and its surviving soldiers were returning north, again to take up their interrupted tasks or studies….But this little church and retired community, like every other throughout the land, had been called upon for a sacrifice of its youth.
For, early in 1868, it had been decided to build a new house of worship. Subscriptions were started and the ground broken at the corner of 53rd St. and Washington [now Blackstone] Avenue, in May, 1869. In July of the same year the corner stone was laid with impressive ceremonies….The ‘stone church,’ stately and commodious, quickly rose to its completion and was dedicated on October 30. …It was a great day and one of rejoicing, which marked the beginning of greater zeal and spirituality in the church.
We have a church manual issued in 1873 which shows a membership of 173…..How deeply the pastor and the elders felt their dependence upon the great Head of the Church during these years can be partly estimated from two events that followed the bewildering effect of the great fire [of October 1871]. Pew holders could not pay the rent, and pews were being surrendered. The trustees and session, in joint conference, after seeking Divine guidance in prayer, decided to change the financial plan and to depend upon volunteer offerings for the support of the church, allowing all to retain their pews.
[In the 1880s] the Hyde Park Church sent out its first missionary to a foreign land. Miss Sarah Wirt…..was fitted by experience…..for the wider field of Siam and Laos. The ladies of the church assumed her outfit, and the sum required for her sustenance was provided by the church. In 1882 she left us for that distant land, where for twenty-eight years she has labored faithfully and successfully.
In October, 1888….the necessity for an enlarged edifice [became] fully understood by all, and the decision was made not to colonize, but to enlarge the church edifice or to remove it entirely and buildup on the same site. …The building committee…after much consideration, adopted the latter plan. A tabernacle was built for the temporary use of the congregation..and demolition began. …At this juncture the church experienced a great loss in the death of Wm. H. Ray (the Principal of the High School), who had been for years one of the most enthusiastic workers in the bible school and in all church life….His class has perpetuated his name up a memorial window in the Sunday School room, and by the single word “service his rightly characterized his beautiful life among us. In 1990 the new edifice was completed and dedicated with appropriate ceremony.