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History Of The St. Luke Parish Building
By Father Andrew Harrison

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. The hilltop location on 107th Street was the site of a fort built by the French army during the 1600's. 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. The fort was located a few feet from the present church building.

It is possible that the famous missionary explorer Father James Marquette spent the winter of 1674-1675 in a log cabin on this site. 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. Most historians locate the cabin in Chicago but this has not been absolutely proven since the entrance to Sag Swamp and the entrance to the Chicago River from Lake Michigan would have appeared very similar in the 1600s.

Land for the church was donated from the farmland of the Peter Lucas family. 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.

The architect chosen to design the 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.

The basement was not original to the building. It was dug out later to make room for a fellowship hall. In 1971, when Sacred Heart parish moved to its new site on 111th Street near Roberts Road, the church building 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. Two years later, St. Luke Orthodox Parish purchased the building from the Archdiocese and became 'official' owners, with the final mortgage payment made in December 1996. Today the building is being shared with the newly formed St. Mary's Antiocian Orthodox Mission.

Interesting features of the original building included a round rose window over the front door and an arched ceiling. All the windows of the building were in stained glass, most of which have been removed over time and lost. Today, the original steeple has been replaced by a bell tower dedicated to those who lost their lives in the terrorist attack of September 11th. The bell tower contains the few remaining stained glass windows constructed from the original windows. In addition to the original stained glass, some of the glass used came from a church located across the street from the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The windows add to the commemoration of those who died on September 11, 2001.

Work continued on this historic landmark building, mostly in the form of repairs and patches until 2001, when plans were formulated to expand the church with an addition that includes the bell tower, fellowship hall, office space and church school classrooms. Today, the original building, along with the newly erected addition, stands proudly on the hilltop popularly known as Church Hill, and the bells ring out again.

The 100th anniversary of this historic building will be celebrated during Great Vespers on Saturday, November 27th at 5:30pm. A reception will be held afterwards. Sacred Heart Catholic Church and St. Mary's Antiocian have been invited to participate in the event.

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