St. Louis Church
117th and State Street
Church now Bethel Apostolic; status of paintings unknown
1920s or early 1930s
St Louis de France parish was founded in 1886 for the French population on the far South Side of Chicago. The first mass was said in a hall on Kensington Ave. in 1886 in the parish of St Ambrose. In 1889 a new church was planned, and the parish name was changed to St. Louis. The church was finished in 1890. In 1900, the St Louis property was sold to the new parish of St. Willebrord, and a new site was obtained for the church at 117th and State Street. A temporary frame building was erected for the church. In 1904 the St Louis Academy was constructed for a grammar school.
In 1909, the Rev Jules C Fortin became pastor of the church, and supervised the construction of a new church costing $52,000. The church was erected in 1910-1911. The Catholic paper The New World, stated that “The new building is in the Romanesque style of architecture. It is of brick and Bedford stone, and has a seating capacity of 650.” In 1915, the Rev R.P. Pugny became pastor of the church, and remained pastor until his death in 1936. Rev Pugny hired John Mallin to decorate the church, probably in the 1920s or early 1930s, The Golden Jubilee of the church was celebrated in 1936, by which time there were less than 200 families in the parish.
A description of the decorations in one of Mallin’s brochures states, “The entire ceiling is decorated with a border in three shades of color. The fields of the ceiling have a center ornament and pictures of Saints carrying emblems. The center of the main ceiling is decorated with a frieze and emblems of the coat of arms of St. Louis. Sanctuary ceiling is done in a sky effect with a picture of “Our Lord and Angels” worked out in very delicate colors. Sanctuary walls are decorated with a painting representing the life of St. Louis. The lower walls are done in a brocade effect.”
St Louis School was consolidated with St Nicholas School and closed in 1972. The church closed in 1973 and later housed a congregation known as the Pilgrim Church of God in Christ. It is now home to the Bethel Apostolic Faith Church (since 1981). It is not known if any of the Mallin paintings still remain.
The Archdiocese of Chicago: Antecedents and Developments. St Mary’s Training School Press, Des Plaines Illinois. 1920.
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.