Bridgeport and Back of the Yards, both neighborhoods with deep industrial roots, were instrumental to the growth of Chicago. Formerly known as Hardscrabble, Bridgeport housed the workers constructing the Illinois & Michigan Canal (completed 1848). As the Union Stock Yards grew into the largest livestock processing, distribution and meatpacking facility in the world, “Back of the Yards,” housed many of the Irish and German immigrants who worked in the nearby slaughterhouses, furnaces and factories. The canal (replaced by the larger Sanitary and Ship Canal in 1900) and the stockyards (closed in 1971) are long gone but their influence still remains. Steadily turning into two of Chicago’s most surprising neighborhoods, Bridgeport boasts artist galleries and thriving new coffee shops, while Back of the Yards is home to some of the most cutting-edge green technology and sustainable industry in the city.
Founded in 1904 as a “national parish” for Lithuanians living in Back of the Yards area, Holy Cross church was designed by Joseph Molitor and completed in 1915. In 1981 Holy Cross Parish merged with Immaculate Heart of Mary to serve the growing presence of Latino families. Today, the parish is largely Latino and uses both churches. Beneath the soaring church towers, the inside of the church is covered with paintings, statues and beautiful stained glass windows. The ornate stations of the cross are by renowned painter Thaddeus von Zukotynski, whose work at the church was later restored by Chicago artist Sr. Mary Stanisia. Adolfas Valeška, a Lithuanian artist, executed four oil paintings that depict scenes from Lithuanian and American history. The vaulted ceiling is supported by marble columns located near the walls, and it is lined with more than 2,000 light bulbs that brighten the church, each within a rosette. The brightly colored stained glass windows were installed in 1943 and 1944 by the Chicago firm of Arthur Michaudel.
Behind the Scenes Access: Explore this little-known architectural masterpiece filled with unique artwork.