Two churches on Chicago’s West Side offer a window on the bygone world of Chicago’s Eastern-European Jewish community.
At the corner of Ashland Avenue and Polk Street stands St. Basil Greek Orthodox Church (733 South Ashland Avenue in Little Italy). Alexander L. Levy designed this building in 1910 as a synagogue for the Ohave Sholom Mariampol congregation. This congregation had been established in 1870 in the area around Maxwell and Halsted streets where many Jews from Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, and other parts of Eastern Europe had begun to settle in the years following the Civil War.
The Eastern-European Jewish community gradually migrated westward from the Maxwell Street neighborhood, and the Mariampol congregation relocated to its new synagogue on Ashland. The Ashland Avenue synagogue was built in the Classical Revival style with a dome, a pediment and columns that frame the front entrance.
In 1916, Mariampol merged with Anshe Kalvaria, and the resulting congregation was named Anshe Sholom.
By the 1920s, the center of West Side Jewish life had shifted farther west to the North Lawndale neighborhood. As so many of its members had moved away from the Ashland and Polk area, Anshe Sholom sold the Ashland building. In 1927, it was dedicated as St. Basil Greek Orthodox Church.
Anshe Sholom hired Henry L. Newhouse’s architectural firm, Newhouse and Burnham, to design a new synagogue in North Lawndale. Newhouse and Bernham designed a yellow-brick and limestone Classical Revival temple at the intersection of Independence Boulevard and Polk Street (754 South Independence Boulevard/3808 West Polk Street). Construction was completed in 1926. This new building housed the Anshe Sholom congregation for almost forty years.
By the 1950s, many of North Lawndale’s Jewish residents had begun moving to neighborhoods on the North Side of the city and to the suburbs. Members of Anshe Sholom had already established a branch of the synagogue at 540 W. Melrose Street in the Lakeview neighborhood, and in 1962, the last remaining members of Anshe Sholom in North Lawndale relocated there.
Today the Lakeview congregation is known as Anshe Sholom B’Nai Israel, and the synagogue building in North Lawndale is home to Independence Boulevard Seventh-Day Adventist Church.