History Lesson: The Past and Future of the Catholic Archbishop’s Residence

Residence of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago

Soon after his appointment as archbishop of Chicago in the fall of 2014, Blase Cupich made headlines by revealing his plans to live in the rectory of Holy Name Cathedral rather than in the Archbishop’s Residence in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood (1555 North State Parkway). Although eight of his predecessors have called the mansion on North State Parkway home, Archbishop Cupich announced his intention to form the Archbishop’s Residence Committee to determine whether other uses of the property would better advance the mission of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Residence of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of ChicagoThe Archbishop’s Residence dates from 1885 and is one of the oldest mansions remaining in the Astor Street District. Major James H. Willett, a partner at the architectural firm of Alfred F. Pashley, designed the residence at the direction of Patrick A. Feehan, the first archbishop of Chicago.

The three-story house is constructed of red brick, which is banded by stone and set on a stone block base. Inside are a chapel, sitting rooms, a dining room, a kitchen, and rooms for resident priests and guests. The mansion’s many fireplaces gave rise to its nickname “the House of 19 Chimneys.” The archbishop’s private quarters are on the second floor where Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop emeritus of Chicago, still lives. At the south end of the property stands a large red-brick carriage house. Today, this building houses the nuns who look after the mansion and its residents.

Just as interesting as the residence’s elegant architectural details is its guest book. For over a century, Chicago’s archbishops have received religious, business, and political leaders in the mansion. Among the guests who have spent the night in the residence are Pope John Paul II, who stayed there in 1979 on his papal visit to Chicago, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who visited George Cardinal Mundelein in 1937.

The residence and its grounds are surrounded by some of the most expensive real estate in Chicago. However, as Cardinal George learned when he explored selling the property in 2002, the price that the residence might fetch is limited by its status as a historic and architecturally significant structure. The residence is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is part of Chicago’s Astor Street District. Recently, appraisers have estimated the property’s value to be at least $14.3 million.

Location: 1555 North State Parkway, Gold Coast

Editor’s note: Cardinal Francis George’s name is not written “Francis Cardinal George” in this article because upon his elevation, he sent out a press release to Chicago media asking to be referenced as the former, not the later.

Author: Amy Korte

Amy Korte lives in Old Town. She is a former attorney who enjoys exploring Chicago’s neighborhoods and architecture while jogging and chauffeuring her children to their activities around town.

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