Saints Peter and Paul Church                                            Immaculate Conception Church
Immigration Patterns Change 1880 - 1920
In about 1880 the patterns of immigration to the United States and to the Southeast Side began to change in two important ways. Immigrants from southern and eastern Europe began to enter the country and the numbers of immigrants grew. The Polish were the first group to enter this area and begin change the ethnic makeup of the community which up to that point had been English, Irish, Sedish and German. The first Polish parish in the area was Immaculate Conception.

Saints Peter and Paul Church

Saints Peter and Paul Church was located at 91st and Exchange and was founded in 1882 to serve German Catholics in the South Chicago area. The new parish first met in a vacant store at 92nd and Baltimore. Later, a church and school building (shown above) was constructed at 91st and Exchange. A parish school opened on November 25, 1882 with an enrollment of 90 pupils. By 1933 the school served 312 students. In September 1936 a high school opened and in 1948 the high school became a girls high school which remained open until 1969. A new combination church school building was built and opened in 1942. The building still stands at 2938 East 91st Street but the parish has closed. The building was designed by Chicago architect George S. Smith and was described as having a streamlined type of architecture. Some parishioners did not like the style saying that it looked like a factory. The church was on the ground floor, the elementary school on the second, and the high school on the third floor. The building had 18 classrooms and an assembly hall with a capacity of 750 persons. By 1942 when the new church building opened, the parish school originally founded for Germans had children of French, English, Italian, Croatian, and Mexican descent. By the mid 1970's the 300 students enrolled in the school were 71%Black, 25%Hispanic, and only 2% were of European descent. The school closed in the early 1980's and the parish shortly afterwards. 

Immaculate Conception Church

In 1882 Immaculate Conception was built for the Polish families in South Chicago. It is located at 88th and Commercial Avenue. Eventually the parish needed to branch out because of the huge Polish population entering South Chicago. This eventually resulted in three additional Polish national parishes being fromed in South Chicago: St. Michael, St. Mary Magdalene, and St. Bronislava. On December 19, 1881, land was bought on the southwest corner of 88th and Houston Avenue. Later, in 1882, Father Radziejewski was appointed the pastor of Immaculate Conception. Until a church was built, mass was held in a rented store on 92nd Street between Ontario (Brandon) and Burley Ave.. This went on until the building caught fire. The parishioners temporarily attended mass at the German Catholic parish of SS. Peter and Paul on 91st and Exchange Avenue. Father Radziejewski sold the land previously bought on Houston Avenue, and took the money to buy ten lots from the Calumet and Chicago Canal and Dock Company for about $7,345. This new land was located on 88th and Commercial Avenue. Two years later, on March 24, 1884, a school was opened under the administration of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate from Houston Texas. In 1887, a bell tower was placed alongside the original wooden church. A few years later, in 1889, a brick building was built on Exchange Avenue as a parish hall. By 1890, Immaculate Conception had grown to around 1,100 families and was still increasing. Polish families were mainly settling around the Bush area because of the church and the demand for work in the steel mills nearby. The overpopulation resulted in a new parish, St. Michael's, being formed, in 1892, on 83rd and Bond Avenue. Tragedy struck on May 6, 1894, when the church building was destroyed by a fire. On November 11, 1894 the cornerstone of a new Immaculate Conception was laid and, for four years, until the church was completed, mass was held in the basement of the school. Construction of the new building began in 1898, and was completed on April 23, 1899 from plans drawn by architect, Martin A. Carr. The population of the school grew from 500 to 750 children between 1896 and 1899. This was just too many students for the classrooms in the basement. A new school was built. Students began enrolling in the new school, and by 1907, there were already 1,120 children enrolled. Since the Polish population of South Chicago was still growing, St. Mary Magdalene was established as another division of Immaculate in 1910. The church was located on 84th and Marquette Avenue. The last division of the church occurred in 1928, when St. Bronislava was built on 87th and Colfax.

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