When standing on the corner of Oakley and Rice in Chicago’s west side, it’s easy to feel the history of the locale. There stands the St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, an architectural work of art and historical landmark in the Ukrainian Village.
The beautiful structure, capped with 13 iconic, green domes, has been a cornerstone in the community for many years. Opening its doors in 1915, the church approaches its 100th year of operation. However, Ukrainians have had a presence in Chicago since the 19th century.
Since 1870, immigrants from the Ukraine have been coming to America in search of a better life. For the first 30 to 40 years, it was mostly peasants and uneducated people seeking a new start. But just after the turn of the century, rising nationalism in Ukraine accompanied a new wave of literate immigrants into the US and Chicago.
Though there were pockets of population across town, many newcomers decided to move west where there was still plenty of cheap land available. Board members of St. Nicholas decided they wanted to purchase property for a new church along with 20 surrounding lots to develop housing. The new community soon developed Ukrainian businesses, schools and churches around the initial expansion. And the rest, as they say, is history.
It could be argued that without the St. Nicholas Cathedral, the Ukrainian Village might not exist today as we know it. And though many Ukrainians have left the area, their presence remains and can be felt in the many churches, businesses and organizations still in the community.
Sources: Ukrainian National Museum http://www.ukrainiannationalmuseum.org/eng/whatsHappening/village.html
St. Nicholas Catholic Cathedral http://www.stnicholaschicago.org/#History
Encyclopedia of Chicago http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/1279.html