Holy Trinity Cathedral, Chicago


[Holy Trinity Cathedral, Chicago (1903) Louis H. Sullivan, architect /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

In 1898 architect Louis Sullivan designed and oversaw the construction of a foundry building for Crane Co. manufacturers of, among other things, plumbing fixtures. The architect, known world-wide for his florid decorative designs, was no stranger to the plain-jane industrial building. He and his former partner Dankmar Adler had done a number of very straightforward factory buildings during their productive and landmark producing 15 years together, but partner-less since 1895, a commission was a commission.


[Holy Trinity Cathedral, 1121 N. Leavitt Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

Back in 1892 plumbing fixture king Richard T. Crane had partnered with Westinghouse to produce air brakes for the Trans Siberian Railroad. The industrialist sent his son Charles to the expansive Russian countryside to oversee the Crane interests. As a result of his experience there Charles R. Crane became a devotee of all things Russian, and when Father John Kochurov and the parishioners of Chicago's St. Vladimir's Russian Greek Orthodox Church were looking to build a house of worship in 1898, the Cranes knew of an architect who might be interested.


[Holy Trinity Cathedral, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

Sullivan was busy working on designs for the proposed Schlesinger & Mayer Department Store when discussions began on designing a church for the Orthodox congregation. Using Crane's extensive library of architectural images gathered from his Trans-Siberian adventures, Sullivan came-up with a design for a building that fit the congregation's budget and harkened back to the motherland. The original scheme included a multi-colored exterior stenciled with Sullivan's signature decorative patterns. The inspiration may have come from the polychromed exterior of the architect's Transportation Building, built for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. The octagonal tower over the main sanctuary of the church also bore a striking resemblance to the eight-sided tower at the center of massive World's Fair structure.


[Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

Sullivan chose to wave his usual 10% fee on the final cost of construction, and was paid $1,250 for his services on the $27,104.37 project. Unfortunately there still wasn't enough money to get the smooth stucco surface of the exterior painted the way the architect had hoped for, nor was there enough money left for any of the elaborate Sullivanesque stencilling on the interior - that would come later. The architect did get in a few signature touches added to the trim work around the windows, the towers, and the small canopy over the front entry door. But overall he chose to a design building that paid homage to the small, country church often found out in the boondocks of the vast Russian empire.


[Holy Trinity Cathedral /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

The cornerstone was laid in April, 1902 "founded in honor and memory of Saint Trinity, in
the reign of the most pious autocrat, Nikolai Alexandrovitch, Emperor of all the Russias, Theodore Roosevelt being President of the United States." The Tsar had donated anywhere from $2,500 to $8,000 - depending on the source and the correct conversion of the Russian ruble into dollars. The new Holy Trinity Russian Greek Orthodox Church became Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox cathedral in 1922, and today serves a dwindling number of congregants as Holy Trinity Cathedral of the Orthodox Church in America. Sullivan's jewel box of a church is in need of restoration and rehabilitation and funds are being raised by the Friends of Holy Trinity to insure that this little church on Leavitt Street lasts another 110 years.

See another small Sullivan project that packs a major punch at: Sullivan's Great Poem.

 
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