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.