The Church of the Redeemer was organized in 1858 as the Second Universalist Society, and was originally located on Union Street in a building formerly occupied by the Presbyterians. Two years later, the congregation built a new church on the corner of Sangamon Street and Washington Boulevard (ca. 1860). The congregation continued to thrive, but many of its parishioners appear to have moved farther westward into the neighborhood beyond Ashland Boulevard, with the result that plans were made for the construction of a new church bulding on a new site. A lot at Warren Blvd. and Robey Street, donated by Mrs. Mary Talcott, was selected as the site for a new structure, and William LeBaron Jenney, who had designed the Home Insurance Building, the first skyscraper, was chosen as the architect. The property was valued at $10,000, and the cost of the building, its furnishings and organ was valued at an additional $50,000. The congregation at that time numbered four hundred members, and there were two hundred children enrolled in the Sunday School. Ground for the new building was broken on June 1, 1885; it was ready for worship on Easter Sunday, April 25, 1886. The building style is perhaps best described as Richardsonian Romanesque, a style strongly influenced by Trinity Church in Boston. Henry Richardson was a seminal late nineteenth century who eschewed the fussiness of the Victorian architectural style then in vogue. Trinity Church, Boston, designed in 1868, was a strong influence on late nineteenth century ecclesiastical architecture, and round-headed windows, clean lines, simple massing and rational interior arrangements are basic elements in its design.
A contemporary description of the Church of the Redeemer is instructive of late Victorian taste: “A broad staircase leads to the auditory which materially differs from the usual pattern, being a large rectangular hall with organ and pulpit on the eastern long side and seats rising as in a amphitheater. The ceiling is of natural pine, supported by a system of rafters which are painted olive brown and copper bronze. The whole adorned with trimmings and carvings. The beautifully decorated front of the organ and the elegantly carved pulpit in the center of the east wall harmonize well with the rest. The decoration of the walls consists in bronze releaf, terra cotta colored fields, a frieze in dull brown and olive green finials.” The same source describes the windows: “the stained glass paints are very beautiful. The one on the north shows the biblical sower, that on the south a copy of the Sistine Madonna (memorial). The finest of them are, however, in the three large windows on the western extremity of the transcripts (Talcott memorial), especially the central one, representing “Charity,” displays find effects in color.” Since 1928, the Church of the Redeemer has been the home of Greater Union Baptist Church. This congregation , organized in September, 1908, has lovingly maintained this handsome and important structure. The building was rededicated in 1951. Over the years, several major renovations have been completed.
•Baptismal pool moved upstairs
•Pipe organ removed; Baldwin organ installed
•Lower level remodeled
•Sanctuary ceiling reinforced; sanctuary painted
•North stained-glass window repaired
•New HVAC system installed
•Church office and woman’s restrooms remodeled;
men’s restroom moved to main floor