St. Ita Church
St. Ita Church
1220 West Catalpa Avenue
St. Ita’s parish was founded in 1900 in the Edgewater neighborhood on the north side of Chicago, with approximately 53 Catholic families. On July 1, 1900, Rev. John Crow celebrated the first mass in a Guild Hall, where services were held for the next 5 months. A frame church was constructed in the next six months and mass celebrated there on Christmas Day in 1900.
Church membership increased with the development of high rise buildings in the area. In 1923, Archbishop George W. Mundelein approved the construction of a new church, and suggested that it be built in the French Gothic style. The famed architect Henry J. Schlacks was hired to design and build the new church. The cornerstone was laid in 1924, and the new church was completed in 1927. The medallion stained glass windows in the church include more than 200,000 pieces of glass.
In 1942, Rev. Gerard C. Picard was named pastor of the church. In 1949, an organ with 4,500 pipes was acquired for the church. In 1950, John Mallin was hired by Rev. Picard to decorate the church, probably in preparation for the church’s Golden Jubilee in 1951. The black and white photo of St Ita’s during the decoration shows the sanctuary ceiling decorations as they still look today.
At Frank Heitzman’s website that describes Schlacks’ churches, he describes St. Ita’s sanctuary: “From High above the altar and the reredos window the vaulting of the apse glitters with gold leaf over which are stenciled vines in the manner of A.W. N. Pugin, one of the pioneers of the Gothic Revival style. The scalloped and quadrefoiled stonework ornamentation above the arcades of the nave may have been originally intended for gilding, too, though such a program was never carried out. So, too, the blank arcades over the side altars may have originally been intended by Schlacks for murals or for abstract decorations.” The sanctuary ceiling is reminiscent of the sanctuary ceiling at St Edmund’s that Mallin decorated.
A virtual tour of the church interiors is available at the link below.
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.