St. Hedwig’s Orphanage Chapel

Project Name
St. Hedwig's Industrial School Chapel

7135 N. Harlem
Niles, Illinois

Project Status
Building Demolished

Project Date/s

St Hedwig’s orphanage for Polish orphans opened in 1911 in Niles, Illinois, on the northwestern border of the City of Chicago.  The orphanage was situated near St. Adalbert’s cemetery in Niles, which primarily served Polish and Czechoslovak families.  Rev. Francis Rusch was appointed to supervise the orphanage in 1911.  The orphanage was designed to provide training for both boys and girls.  Some of the trades taught included sewing, cooking, printing, and shoemaking.  The boys’ institution was called the Polish Manual Training School for Boys, and the girls’ institution was called St Hedwig’s Industrial School for Girls.  The Chicago Archdiocese financially supported the orphanage, which was run by the Felician Sisters. In 1920, there were 670 boys and girls living at the orphanage, ages two to fifteen.

Mallin decorated the Chapel at the orphanage for Rev. Rusch.  The date of the decorations is unknown.  In a memoir written about the orphanage, an unknown author describes the activities in the chapel.  “I mentioned chapel.  Here the children came to hear Mass, to pray, to observe the liturgical seasons of the year. They sang beautifully and enjoyed singing to such as extent that the windows vibrated when they sang.  The children had the opportunity to participate in processions in the chapel and on the grounds of the village on Corpus Christi Day.  On these occasions the sisters dressed the little girls in beautiful white dresses and the little boys in page suits.  The boy’s caps were decorated with colorful plumes.  They looked like the pages in history books who served the kings of their country.”

The orphanage closed on Oct. 1, 1960 due to low enrollment. The buildings were then used by the Niles College Seminary.  However, all of the buildings were demolished in 1995.   Condos now sit at the former orphanage site.



  1. Daday, Eileen. Condos could rise at former seminary site.  Daily Herald.  Dec 23, 1995. Page 3.
  2. DeFiglio, Pam. Author tells riveting tale of Niles History.  The Patch.  July 20, 2012.  accessed 12-31-2017
  3. Hirsley, Michael. Alumni Recall Orphanage Days.  Chicago Tribune, July 12, 1991.
  4. Poles of Chicago, 1837-1937: A history of one century of Polish contribution to the city of Chicago, Illinois.” Library of the University of Illinois. Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. 1937.
  5. The Archdiocese of Chicago: antecedents and developments. St Mary’s Training School Press, Des Plaines, Illinois. 
  6. Author unknown. “Farewell and tribute to Msgr. Francis Rusch, Founder of St Hedwig Orphanage. 1911-1996.   A Fairy Tale—The children’s village.”  Document from Niles Illinois Historical Society.
John A. Mallin
Painting Fragment