St. Joseph Catholic Church, Wilmette

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The tower, in particular, is faintly reminiscent of Bertram Goodhue’s 1922 capitol building for Nebraska.

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Inside, St. Joseph is clean and spare. Applied ornament is almost absent.

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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.

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St. Joseph was designed by McCarthy, Smith & Eppig, and dedicated in 1939.

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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.

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2 thoughts on “St. Joseph Catholic Church, Wilmette

  1. Beautiful church. Another Catholic church built in the 30s is St. Giles in Oak Park. Exterior is sort of Spanish-style. Interior is traditional and ornate, no sign of anything modern or deco.Rob

  2. Pingback: A rare bird: the Art Deco church « A Chicago Sojourn

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