On January 3, 1912, St. Gertrude’s Church was established to serve Catholic families who lived in North Edgewater in the area bounded by Thorndale, Devon, Ravenswood and Lake Michigan.
The parish grew rapidly and most of the residents were immigrants from Germany, Ireland and Luxembourg. The community was quite diverse, even in 1912, with stately mansions along the lakeshore and a mixture of apartments and single family homes west of Broadway. The area was then part of Nicholas Kransz’s farm. Looking north from the corner of Glenwood and Granville, there was an unobstructed view to St. Ignatius Church in the suburb of Rogers Park.
By Palm Sunday, March 31, 1912, a portable church had been erected on the north side of Granville, just west of Glenwood. In May of that year, ground was broken at 6220 for a three-story combination church and school building. On December 1, 1912, St. Gertrude’s Church and School was dedicated by Archbishop Quigley. The church occupied the first floor, the school occupied the second and third floors and the assembly hall was located in the basement. The original building did not include the present limestone addition.
North Edgewater experienced rapid development following World War I. The Pastor of St. Gertrude’s Church was Rev. Bernard C. Heeney, who had plans to build a permanent church, separate from the school. Throughout the 1920s, the parish held annual building fundraising events in the ballroom of the Edgewater Beach Hotel. By 1929, two new parish buildings were completed – the rectory at 1420 Granville and the convent at 6214 Glenwood. Both buildings were designed by architect James Burns.
On November 30, 1930, the cornerstone was laid for the new church building. Construction was completed on November 15, 1931. Again, the architect was James Burns. The general contractor was Matt Rauen, a parishioner whose shop was located on Ravenswood, between Thome and Highland. This English Gothic structure was one of the few churches – or other buildings for that matter – that were erected during the Depression. The façade is Bedford limestone, which was quarried, cut and paid for prior to the Stock Market Crash in 1929.
The Church’s beautiful stained glass windows were crafted by Franz Mayer in Munich, Germany. The interior’s soaring Gothic arches were designed so that no column would block anyone’s view of the front altar from any of the 650 seats. The Church’s five altars are made of Italian Carrara marble, with gold mosaic and Pavonazzo trimmings. The cost of the original Kilgen pipe organ was $18,000. Total cost of the church’s construction was $225,000.
The façade of the Church features two wide arches above stained glass windows and two double doors. In keeping with the Gothic style, the arches are decorated with stone symbols of religious origin. One row includes acorns, grapes, cornucopia, bridge, bell, keys, bird and pineapple (welcome). The second row includes many floral variations. The four center carvings are dove and olive branch, a prophet’s face, a bell and four Gospel writers.
As you enter the vestibule, please take notice of the ceiling details and the original baptistery. When you enter the main church, you will experience the beautiful wide open space of the truly modern architecture. It is truly a welcoming church.