Mundelein College: resourceful nuns to the rescue

It was considered a skyscraper; a skyscraper college for Catholic women.

And what did a Catholic women’s college need?

Nuns, of course, to administer the college and teach the students.

The nuns, like they so often have been, were ingenious heroines of Mundelien College.


But before you hear about the nuns, you need to know about the building.  In 1930, when Mundelein College opened, a 14 story building was considered quite tall, and it seems that way today too, partially due to the location—at a dramatic turn on Sheridan Road, just off of Lake Michigan on Chicago’s north side.


Mundelein College appears tall due to slight of hand trickery by the architect Nairne W. Fisher.  Windows grow smaller and are deeper inset as the building gets taller to give a greater impression of height.  The strong vertical lines add to the illusion.


The guardian angels at the top of the stairway greet students with Art Deco flair.






Inside there’s a lovely performance space, well lit by stained glassed windows.


I spy with my little eye, a mini Mundelien skyscraper over a heating grate.





Now here’s the part you were waiting for: nuns.

Nuns, specifically the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, conceived of and fund-raised for Mundelein college.  Seriously people: you take a vow of poverty and then raise enough funds to build an Art Deco Skyscaper college—-quite an accomplishment, eh?

Now just three days before your college’s groundbreaking all hell breaks loose in the form of the 1929 stock market crash.  Do these nuns throw in the towel?  Nope, the go ahead and build it anyway.

Ok, they build it, but cut a couple of corners to save cash.  For example, there are four elevator shafts but they can only afford one elevator.  And then those resourceful nuns go ahead and use one of those empty elevator shafts to build a giant Foucault pendulum!  Oh, and on roof of that 14th floor skyscraper they installed an observatory with a telescope.




These days Mundelein College is incorporated into Loyola University’s Lake Shore Campus.  When HOB and I were there under two weeks ago we saw  parents lined up with cars moving the Loyola students out of the dorms, three months ahead of schedule.

All schools and universities in Illinois are now closed due to the coronavirus.


We are now under a “shelter in place” order in Illinois.  We are still allowed to go outside, as long as we distance ourselves from others.  HOB and I coping by walking around the neighborhood.  (Judging by the smell outside, the rest of Chicago is coping by smoking massive amounts of marijuana.)

These are stressful times, and frankly depressing.  I can’t stand the sight of a closed school.  I wonder what the nuns would do in this situation, how they would use their resilience and ingenuity to make a Foucault Pendulum out of this empty elevator shaft of a pandemic.



How we got to Mundelein College: on foot.
Where we slept: at home. Price: mortgage, assessments and utilities. Recommended: highly.



  1. Great post. I don’t know too much about Chicago, and certainly didn’t know this wonderful late Art Deco building.

    Housework and endless Skype meetings are keeping me and The Family busy. That and buying fresh food. We started having skype chats, meeting for tea or coffee, with friends across the world. Everyone’s shut in and bored.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks! Sooner or later (probably later) it will occur to that I should pass the time with housework.

      We are the lucky ones, to be shut in with someone we love. I have friends that are shut in alone—can you imagine?

      My first attempt at a zoom meeting was disastrous because the sound wen’t completely wonky.

      Best of health to you and The Family!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks, and you and HOB too

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks! For all the years I’ve lived in Rogers Park, I’ve never been inside.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi neighbor! Hope it will re-open this summer so you can check it out. I’d like to see a performance in that auditorium.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a stunning building! If you want something done, hand it to a bunch of nuns.
    Hooting at the Chicago survival tactics!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah yes, our marijuana dispensaries have been deemed an “essential service” during the coronavirus lockdown.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. One way to keep the population quiet at home…

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m a guy of the kind that Italians call “mangiapreti”, i.e. “priest-eaters”, meaning that I don’t have a lot of sympathy for clergy but… these nuns are on my good books. Science AND cool buildings? way to go sisters!

    Quite impressed to see parents driving there to pick up their kids and belongings. Had it happened to me my mother would’ve just texted with the equivalent of “Bring yo ass home” and my dad would’ve offered to pick me up, only to drive to Detroit instead.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Before women had any rights (and access to birth control) really the only way women could get an education and a vocation without being a 24/7 baby factory was to be a nun. My theory is that most nuns are secret radicals…..

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Love art deco – and your tours around a building. And who knew nuns could be so clever? I had only one – Sister Francis in first grade and I still remember her grip on my arm.
    This is frightening and bizarre but luckily I have the good company of my daughter and cute dog and still, a job. We laugh a lot and eat very well. Mostly I feel very grateful- especially just before going to sleep (soon) when I fill my lungs easily with air. Stay well!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you have Molly and put for company. I have so friends locked in alone—can you imagine?

      I think we should start a new coronavirus cooking blog—we are eating really well too!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great pictures of the outside and inside of the building. It is nice to know that the college has survived all of these years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by Geri. Did you go to college here? We were also able to access a higher, patio type floor which was lovely but my pics were no good.


      1. No I did not. I do like old building and their architecture. Do not beat yourself up about the pictures. They did what they were suppose to, explain the text. Thanks again.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Hello from St Cloud Minnesota, home of the architect Nairne Fisher at the time building was constructed. Great to see continued interest in the skyscraper building. The smaller windows near the top were housing for the nuns! I have a set of photos including many of same highlights taken during a guided tour by Sister Ann Ida Gannon, who as a school girl played at the dedication in a school band at the building’s dedication and later served as Mundeline College President. If interested, perhaps architect Fischer’s most outstanding work although smaller than Mundelein, is the Art Deco Rice County Courthouse in Fairibault Minnesota. Any casual internet search will return multiple sources.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello J.D. and thanks for the tip about the Rice Count Courthouse—I’d love to see that in person some day. I read online that it is Zig Zag Moderne, which is a new one to me.


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