History Of St. Luke Parish Building
Erected in 1904 as the Roman Catholic Mission of the Sacred Heart, this building replaced the original log church at 101st and Kean Avenue, which had burned down earlier that year. Sacred Heart cemetery remains at that site today.
Father Francis Antl from Saint Alphonsus Church in Lemont founded sacred Heart Roman Catholic Mission in 1873. He became its first Pastor. Fathers J. E. Hogan and Joseph A. Bollman, both from St. Patrick's in Lemont, serviced the mission in the 1880's.
The hilltop location on 107th Street in the forest preserve was the site of a fort built by the French army during the 1600's. 1 This fort was located a few feet from the present church building. It was in a log cabin on this site that the famous missionary explorer Father James Marquette spent the winter of 1674-1675.2
The land for the church was donated from the farmland of the Peter Lucas family. The architect chosen to design the new building was William J. Brinkman who built several other architecturally notable churches in Chicago. It was constructed of brick in the Romanesque style. The steeple, which has since been removed, housed a bell and was topped with a golden cross. Today plans are underway to construct a bell tower with a golden cupola and cross.
Interesting features of the building include the round rose window over the front door and the arched ceiling. The round rose window originally contained stained glass petals. Over the years, some were stolen and now the petals alternate between the stained glass and clear replacement panes.
The basement was not original to the building. It was dug out later to make room for a fellowship hall. At the time the church was built, farmland surrounded the church. The Cook County Forest Preserve has since purchased much of the surrounding land. The Forest Preserve District purchased 50 acres in 1916. By 1975, the acreage was well over 7,000, which add up to almost half of the entire Palos Township.
In 1971, when Sacred Heart parish moved to its new site on 111th Street near Roberts Road, the church building on 107th Street became the Newman Center for Moraine Valley Community College. When the Newman Center relocated, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese rented the facility to the newly formed Orthodox mission of Saint Luke in 1984. Two years later in 1986, the mission purchased the building from the Archdiocese and became 'official' owners with the final mortgage payment made in December of 1996.
Work continues on this historic landmark building, which is approaching its 100th birthday. Future plans include a fellowship hall, office space and church school classrooms, while maintaining its historical significance as much as possible. Memorial donations for the restoration of the building will be gratefully accepted.
1 "In 1830's visitors to this area found the remains of what were apparently earthworks fortifications on the bluffs overlooking the sag swamp...near the intersection of 107th and Kean Avenue." Three cannon balls were found at 87th Ave. and 103rd St. (History of Palos Hills)
2 This information is legendary and comes from the history of Sacred Heart Mission since all records of this period were lost when Joliet's canoe sank. "Although there is a possibility of Marquette and Joliet having been in Palos, there is no way of proving where they went in the Chicago area from records now available." (History of Palos Hills)