The newest spire about to pierce Chicago’s sky isn’t a fancy apartment tower along the lakefront. It’s a place of worship.
Two permits issued in the last few days show that work is finally going to begin on the very long-awaited downtown Chicago temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints at 816 North Clark Street. Currently, its adherents meet in a space shared with three other congregations. Not exactly an ideal setup, but from a historical perspective, common among Chicago’s lesser-represented religions.
The Mormons have owned the land north of the Bush Temple of Music for years. We first heard about plans for a temple in that location way way back during a planning meeting for Eight O Five (805 North LaSalle Street), which would have been three or four years ago. A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the temple in June of 2015, but there’s been nothing concrete about it until now.
First, came a demolition permit to rid the land of what’s currently there:
Permit issued for easy permit process WRECK AND REMOVE A 15 X 7.2 BRICK ATTENDANT KIOSK ON AN EXISTING PARKING LOT.
Then, a construction permit to put up something entirely new:
Permit issued for new construction Foundation Systems Only for proposed new construction of a 7-story church with parking on levels 1 through 4 and accessory uses, includes deep foundations all as per plan. 822 N Clark.
Just a few months ago, in Saint George, Utah, we visited the first Mormon temple erected after the religious group was kicked out of Illinois. It’s a very striking structure. Its clean, modern lines make it look like it could have been built 10 years ago, not in 1877.
What the downtown Chicago LDS temple will look like is anybody’s guess at this point. Information is very hard to come by. Which is not surprising considering there is an entire industry dedicated to ridiculing Mormons, and certain Hollywood celebrities have made millions of dollars poking fun of them. “Celebrate diversity” does not apply to everyone in America.
We do know that Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture is definitely not the architect. The images that we included above are of their new residential tower going up next to the temple at 812 North Clark Street. HPA couldn’t get an idea of what the new neighbor would look like, so its artists created their own placeholder temple building just to illustrate the massing.
So, with HPA off the list, who’s the leading contender?
The only clue we have to work with is the name David Dixon, an architect who testified in front of the city’s zoning committee in 2012 in favor of a minor variance regarding loading docks that was requested by the LDS. There’s a David Dixon registered as an architect in Illinois with a Salt Lake City address, so best guess is that the design is being done in-house, and we’ll see it when they’re good and ready to show us.