A most imposing edifice, towering over the suburban houses and 2-story commercial buildings around it, stands at Lake and Ridge in western Wilmette. St. Joseph Church is that rarest of beasts, a church constructed during the lean years of the 1930s, a time when even the Catholic church slowed its building program.
St. Joseph is unusually tall and imposing. Its most striking feature is the indented front entrance, which looms like a shallow cave sculpted out of a mountainside.
The building is a mild update of traditional church styling. It’s historicist in bent, but the influence of Art Deco is inescapable. It’s nothing radical or stylized; the Deco is in the details.
The tower, in particular, is faintly reminiscent of Bertram Goodhue’s 1922 capitol building for Nebraska.
Inside, St. Joseph is clean and spare. Applied ornament is almost absent.
Angular Deco details can be seen in the hanging lamps, the wall sconces, and the side aisle arches.
The style of the stained glass windows matches the building itself: leaning toward traditional, with inoffensively faint traces of Modernist influence, such as the geometric patterns bordering this window.
St. Joseph was designed by McCarthy, Smith & Eppig, and dedicated in 1939.
And a coda: Across the street, a beautiful associated school building harmonizes with the church’s style, and somehow fails to have the sun on it every single time I pass by.