Rev. Silas Meckel

Rev. Silas Meckel Interview*

History of Uptown, Summerdale District/Recent Changes, Document #29

Source: Interview with Rev. Silas Meckel, residence 1728 Catalpa, pastor of the Summerdale Congregational Church at Paulina and Farragut Avenues [1700 West Farragut] for the past two years. Interviewed in January, 1928.

I have only lived in the community for two years so that I know nothing of the early history of the church, but I can tell you what others have told me since I have been pastor. The original church was started by English speaking people, many of English or Canadian birth. These people had English traditions and Congregational backgrounds and wanted their own church here. During the first few years of its existence, it was quite a community church, being, as I understand it, the only church in the district. People used to walk across the open prairie to go to church at it. There were some Scandinavians in the locality when the church was started in 1890. These joined and became thoroughly Anglicized. But after 1900 with the increase in the Scandinavian element in our population, the membership decreased, for the Scandinavians very naturally and properly went to their own religious organizations as they were organized. In 1914 then, when the Swedish influx assumed its largest proportions, our little church was nearly in a state of insolvency. The budget for 1914 was $1,000. Most of the English-speaking members have moved out of the district.

In some case they have moved just across the tracks to the west. This land up until several years ago was all under glass. It was owned by Peter Reinberg who had built the greenhouses a long time ago. Since his death, they have been torn down, for the increased valuation of the land made such a move advisable. His son subdivided the land and in the last five years since the time it was opened up, the whole district has had an enormous development. In the last two years Hoyne and Hermitage have gone into apartments. This district is populated with English speaking people and in some cases there are young married people from the east side of the Northwestern tracks. But now, it is beginning to look like some of these young people are leaving the new district to go further west or north.

The opening up of the land directly west of the old church district had also decreased our membership and so when I came I asked that this new territory be given to me to work for one year. I made a survey of the territory and found no other church ministering to it. The people on the west of the did not know of our church on the other side of the tracks. So I had to do a great deal of visiting before they were acquainted with the church. But by the end of the year, my membership had doubled itself. Now we are hoping to build a new church in the new district. The territory in our parish will be bounded by Ainslee, Rosehill Cemetery, Western and Robey. We hope to locate at Hoyne and Foster Avenues. I do not believe that we will lose many of our old members by the church in location. At present the only street in the neighborhood of the church that can be called our parish street is Farragut Avenue. The other members are scattered east of the tracks or are all on the west side.

Another interesting point about the location of the old church was that while it was good in the early life of the organization, in the later years it turned out to be unfortunately located. When streets began to be built, some of the north and south ones did not cut across Bryn Mawr or Farragut and so the church was dependent upon east and west lines of travel. With the elevation of the Northwestern tracks, the isolation of the western territory began.

The elevated tracks of the Northwestern have been a psychological barrier. They have never been wholly physical since openings under the tracks are frequent and are used for automobile service. But when people are out for a walk, they stop at the tracks on their own side and do not mingle with the life of the other side. The people who now live on the west side have gotten so used to living to themselves over there that if we had a great big steeple on our church just a short way to the east of the tracks, it would never have been noticed by them.

Note: The replacement church at Hoyne and Foster was apparently never built. In 2013, the original building at Paulina and Farragut continues to operate under the name Summerdale Community Church as part of the United Church of Christ, a successor denomination to the Congregational Church.

* Silas Archipus Meckel was born 8 October 1899 in La Sueur, Minnesota, to Karl and Louise Meckel, both born in Germany. His father was a clergyman of the Evangelical Association( Evangelishche Gemeinschaft). In 1918 Silas Meckel worked as a seaman for a WeSeattle-based shipping company. He attended college and seminary in Minnesota in the early 1920s and it is possible that the position with Summerdale Congregational Church was his first after seminary. He married Ruth D. Jones and had a son and daughter before 1930. He was serving Mayflower Community Church in Minneapolis in 1930 and 1940. He became a chaplain during WWII, and his veteran’s death certificate indicates he was an Air Force Colonel during the Korean War. He died in Houston, Texas, 9 April 1980.

Cover page: Documents: History of the Uptown Community, Chicago. Prepared for the Chicago Historical Society and the Local Community Research Committee, University of Chicago. Research under the direction of Vivien M. Palmer; staff investigators Marion Lindner and Beatrice Nesbit. These documents contain data just as it was secured form old residents and from existing documents. A final check of the data will appear in the volume of the Social History of Chicago.

Format: Photocopy of a typescript without page numbers in the Chicago History Museum library; volume 2 of a 6-volume set containing documentary information on 20 Chicago community districts/areas.

Publication date: 1925-1930.