St. Joseph Church
St. Joseph Church
4821 S. Hermitage Avenue
St Joseph Roman Catholic Church was founded on the South Side of Chicago by Polish families who lived near the Union Stockyards, where many of them worked. The closest church in this area was St. Mary of Perpetual Help, another church with predominantly Polish parishioners. To serve the growing Polish population, St. Joseph church was built on the corner of 48th and Hermitage, and was dedicated on Dec 19, 1886. As the parish population grew, another church, designed by a Polish architect, was dedicated on Oct. 6, 1895. The church took 3 more years to be completed however.
The Polish population in the area increased to such an extent that two new Polish parishes were formed in 1910, St. John of God and Sacred Heart. However, St. Joseph parish continued to grow despite this, and had 1,300 pupils enrolled in its grammar school in 1910. A new church was needed to accommodate the growth of the parish. The church was designed by Joseph Monitor, with a seating capacity of 1,200. The cornerstone was laid on Aug, 10, 1913, and the new church was dedicated on Sept. 27, 1914. The Romanesque structure was completed for a cost of $200,000 and is a prime example of the Polish cathedral style of churches.
In 1950-1951, Mallin redecorated the church for Rt. Rev. Msgr. Stanislaus P. Cholewinski, the Pastor of the church. He had been Pastor of the church since 1910, and oversaw the construction of the new church in 1913. An October 1950 letter written to Mallin, indicates that scaffolding was to be constructed in the Altar section, main Nave, all side aisles on and under the balcony and in the lobby, for a cost of $4,500 for six months. Mallin’s bank records from 1951 indicate deposits from St. Joseph totaling $37,000.
Photos shortly after completion of the decorations show the elaborate decorations in the sanctuary and sides of the church. The church today still includes most of Mallin’s decorations, including the sanctuary ceiling, as well as murals and oil paintings throughout the church. The stenciling under the arches has been painted over, as have the Polish writing that was on the Sanctuary arch. The gold stenciling and decorations on the lobby ceiling are intact.
The Union Stockyards closed in the 1970s, and many of the Poles moved out of the parish. Today the church primarily serves a large Mexican population, but still provides services in English, Spanish and Polish. In 2017, the church celebrated its 130th anniversary.
A History of the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago Volume 1. Msgr. Harry C. Koenig, S.T.D., editor. The Archdiocese of Chicago, Chicago, 1980.