A few months ago I wrote about St. John of God Church in Chicago (see here). The closed and vacant church has been sold to another congregation in the Chicago suburbs and is currently being strip mined for reassembly several miles from the site it was designed for. The interior of this church and all of its substructure will be sent to the dump. The interior of another closed Chicago church will be assembled behind the facade of this church. This Chicago scenario is disturbingly similar to the proposal for St. Gerard’s in Buffalo, which Catholic Church leaders are planning to send to suburban Atlanta.
Many have praised this move to the south as a perfect solution to an intractable problem. People in Buffalo seemingly have no use for this important part of their cultural heritage and people in Atlanta desperately want to pretend they have a long standing cultural heritage. This has been described by the pro move people as a win win situation. Buffalo divests itself of a future eyesore and the building is put back to use. The only two scenarios presented so far make the Atlanta move seem logical, either in Buffalo the building rots for decades or in Atlanta it is put back to use and “saved”. Except, the building is not really saved.
St. Johns is a good view into Buffalo’s sad future if the St. Gerard’s scheme is carried out. One of best architectural writers and observers anywhere, Lynn Becker, has penned the story included here in full by his permission. Lynn has written extensively on Architecture in Chicago. His work can be found in several publications as well as his own blog called Architecture Chicago Plus in which the following story on St. John appeared. His blog is worth reading even for those not in Chicago. Becker’s story on St. John is deeply moving and poetic. The accompanying photos are beautiful and disturbing at the same time. Read this story and take in the future reality of “saving” St. Gerard’s by sending it to a suburban parking lot near Atlanta.
The Flaying of St. John by Lynn Becker
As you get to the edge of the park, at 52nd street, you come upon the immensity of it.
A piece of architecture that defined the lives of tens of thousands of people vanishes into thin air.
For now, a single automobile tire rests incongruously in the foyer. Rubble is everywhere, even framing the great altar.