Logan Square Preservation and the historic Roman Catholic Parish of Saint John Berchmans have announced a joint effort to restore the bell that was originally installed when the church was dedicated in 1906.
St. John Berchmans was originally the church for the expat community of Belgians in Chicago and formed a center of that community locally, together with the defunct but still standing Belgian Hall on Fullerton, they attracted an ethnic community, remnants of which still exist today. The parish has grown and changed with the community but is still vital and includes a large and vibrant school.
Logan Square Preservation is undertaking the project in memory of a founding member , Gerald Slawin and his wife Diane Ragains. Slawin grew up in the neighborhood and supported St. John Berchmans all his life. He was the architect behind the 1970s-era rehabilitation of the sanctuary. His wife Diane was a well-known neighbor and opera singer and was a part of the Grant Park Opera. She taught at Northern Illinois University.
A single, working church bell once hung in the belfry on the corner of Logan and Maplewood but, at some point around the 1930s, the mechanism that operated the bell was cracked. The bell was disassembled and replaced with an electronic system that has since fallen into disuse.
The church has invested millions of dollars in substantial roof and structural rehabilitation in recent years and has served as a highly visible landmark on Logan Boulevard for more than a century. During recent rehab work the bell was found intact but non-functioning in the belfry. Logan Square Preservation decided to help lead a community effort to raise the necessary funds to restore the bell, which is the church’s historic voice – no two bells are alike.
The project, which will electrify the bell and allow for remote control is estimated to cost up to $15,000. Funds will be handled by LSP (a registered 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit) and put towards the restoration of the bell.
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