Unity Temple lettering stolen

This is sad. More than 50 of the letters that adorned the entrance of Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Unity Temple were stolen amidst an Oak-Park frenzy of copper and bronze theft, apparently by salvage thieves seeking the resale value of the metal. Here is a link to a local article on the theft.

Theft of building pieces has been a thriving business around here for over 40 years and probably longer. The famed “brick thieves” in Chicago tried to take one of the exterior urns from Robie House a few years back.

A thief was caught on camera not many years ago stealing a newel post from the Monadnock Building (although ironically, he was stealing one of the few non-original replacement newel posts) and the brick thieves did a number on the beautiful Art Deco panels of the Chicago Bee Building in the Black Metropolis Historic District before one was caught and the building restored.

But the Unity Temple theft is especially galling because the site is already suffering from major structural issues caused by water infiltration – and another piece of vandalism in the last year, when someone threw a bucket through the sanctuary skylight.


It is always personally painful when an element of such a public landmark – a place of such international significance in the expression of art, design, culture and the human spirit; a place that is shared and treasured by so much of society – is trashed for the short term pleasure of a few antisocial individuals.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Cucina Paradiso, the fabulous restaurant around the corner from Unity Temple, is donating all proceeds from the dinner on Thursday, October 21, to the restoration of the letters at Unity Temple. Cucina Paradiso is located at 814 North Boulevard in Oak Park (right off the Green Line stop at Oak Park Avenue) and their telephone number is 708-848-3434. THANKS!

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2 Responses to “Unity Temple lettering stolen”

  1. preservegreen Says:

    Grrrrrrr! Do you know if salvage shops around the city accept these items for resale? I mean, if it’s a matter of melting down metals that are indistinguishable, I get that it’s hard to trace things, but if I walk into Architectural Artifacts, am I going to see the Unity Temple letters on display for the next heart surgeon to purchase and put on the mantle of his prairie style mansion? This concerns me, and I wonder about the level of awareness. Any idea?

  2. PreservationNation » Blog Archive » Preservation Round-Up: Double-Time Edition Says:

    […] of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple in Oak Park, IL were stolen. Time Tells says that the theft occurred “amidst an Oak-Park frenzy of copper and bronze theft, apparently by salvage thieves seeking […]

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