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Many a Pious Curiosity at Holabird & Roche's Chicago Temple

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It is perhaps a desperate statistic, but the Chicago Temple is listed as the tallest church building in the world, but not the tallest church. We imagine there aren't too many churches that also qualify as conventional skyscrapers, but there you have it. The Sky Chapel is another United Methodist claim to fame: it's the highest place of worship above street level (not counting, of course, locales without streets like cliffside shrines and Himalayan temples). Wrestle with the relevance of sea level if you like, we're more interested in the incredible structure that Holabird & Roche put together in 1924.

The limestone-faced neo-Gothic building climbs 586 feet, street to steeple, and holds its own in a forest of newer towers. The first couple of floors extend the highly-ornate and heavy exterior's characteristics and balloon out into a traditional church congregation with a balcony and seating for hundreds. Much of the woodwork found within this place of worship and throughout the building—in trusses, rails, mantles, steps, and wall panels—is coated in a 1950s wood-grain finish, and, indeed, a lot of restoration and expansion of facilities took place in that decade. Chief among the additions/alterations is the Sky Chapel, a small room built into the base of the steeple above 22 floors of offices and three levels of the Reverend's private residence. It's open for select weekly ceremonies and is a matrimonial hit. You wouldn't know you were atop a skyscraper thanks to a circumference of stained glass windows. The giveaway is each window's central panel which swings open to reveal the skyline.

Marching down a few flights, the Reverend's private terrace was open to all us nosy Open House Chicago participants. It's a beautiful, broad perch nearly walled-in by bulky towers and the Temple's own Gothic ornament that all conspire to hog sunlight. A few hardy potted plants made the best of it, and there was also proof that the Reverend and his wife enjoy some Chicago porch-style grilling. Good for them!

The First United Methodist congregation itself is the oldest in Chicago and its downtown anchor represents a commitment to the city at a time when many congregations were re-centering in the near suburbs. We're glad to have toured it.
·Chicago Temple Building [OHC]
·Chicago Temple Building [Wikipedia]
·Open House Chicago 2013 [Curbed Chicago]