St. Ambrose Church

Project Name
St. Ambrose Church

1012 E. 47th Street
Chicago, Illinois

Project Status
Church open; Mallin decorations gone.

Project Date/s
Decoration date: 1929

St. Ambrose parish in the Kenwood neighborhood on the south side of Chicago was formed in 1904 from portions of Holy Angels and St Thomas the Apostle parishes.  Rev. William M. Foley celebrated mass for his small Irish congregation in 1904 in a corner store.  A temporary church was dedicated in 1904.   In 1906, ground was broken for a permanent church and the substructure dedicated on 1907.  However, the Gothic style church designed by Zachary Taylor Davis was not completed until 1926, the year of the Eucharistic Congress.   There were many leading families who lived in mansions in the Kenwood area.  The 1920s were the “golden years” of the parish, with many wealthy Irish families belonging to the congregation.   The support of these wealthy families probably enabled the parish to hire John Mallin to decorate the entire church.

St. Ambrose Church

Mallin was hired to decorate the church in 1929 by the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Wm. Foley.  The contract specifications included preparing the plaster walls and ceiling, plaster ornamental work and mouldings, painting the church ceiling and walls with stipling, stipling a stone effect throughout the church, laying XX gold leaf in the sanctuary ceilings and walls, and decorating the sanctuary with a mural painting of “Our Lord in Heaven” in the center of the field, with two angels carrying emblems one each side of the field.   The total cost of the contract was $9,700.  Additional work done included $800.00 charged for extra work done for gold leaf on the mouldings, and $462 for gilding Stations of the Cross, and cleaning and bronzing of organ pipes and stair railings.  Msgr. Foley remained pastor of the church for 37 years until his death in 1941.

In the 1950s, urban renewal occurred in part of the Kenwood area and neighboring Hyde Park where the University of Chicago resides.  However, the majority of the apartments in Kenwood were not renovated, but rather divided into small apartments which housed poor black families.  By the 1980s, there were approximately 250 families in the parish.   The church is still active today,  but has been entirely redecorated,  so no Mallin decorations remain.


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.