Another church burns

jol chri epis4

Originally uploaded by vincusses.

Joliet’s Christ Episcopal Church burned this weekend. I will really miss this one and it is apparently a total loss, although the quaint Gothic tower pictured here survives. This one was intact – had a fantastic interior with clustered columns and a real nave-like nave – which means the ceiling read like a boat. It was an 1887 masterpiece of picturesque Gothic by Frank Shaver Allen, who gave Joliet a lot of grace.
Harrah’s casino has meant a lot of money to Joliet, mostly in exchange for that grace. Harrah’s has demolished a dozen buildings in Joliet – many made of local limestone like Christ Episcopal, mostly for parking. It wanted this beautiful church because of its location, and it wanted to demolish it.
Christ Episcopal was on Landmarks Illinois’s Chicagoland Watch List last year, because Harrah’s has been breathing down its neck. Harrah’s wanted the site for parking, as the congregation left some time ago.
A local group bought it and decided to convert it into a concert venue.
Harrah’s would not have liked that. This most successful of multinational corporations apparently operates on the old communist principle: no competition. I remember a decade ago when the only Starbucks in Joliet was INSIDE the casino. They wouldn’t even let Starbucks out!
The fire solved a hell of a lot of “problems” for them in one fell swoop. And destroyed a landmark whose memory will add more to the city than Harrah’s ever could, even if Harrah’s had not taken away so much.
No word yet on whether the fire was suspicious. A task force is investigating.

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