We are pleased and EXCITED to announce that Emmanuel Episcopal Church has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The church is only the third individual building in La Grange to be added to the registry.
Our church stands in the exact geographic center of the town of LaGrange as it was configured in 1874 and is the oldest church in the community. Our first church building took three years to build (of stones from the old Stone Avenue quarry) with funds to build that church donated by town founders Franklin Cossitt who along with another town father, David Lyman, deeded the property to the church. The church soon became the heart of LaGrange's social life, hosting parties, teas and picnics.
In December 1924, the old church was destroyed by fire. To this day, the cause of that fire is not known. But the parishioners were not daunted. Less than three years later, the "new" church building was completed, with additions to that building in 1949 and later. The building was designed by noted architect John Neal Tilton who hired Grosvenor Goodhue's firm as consultants on the project. At the time, Goodhue was completing his work on the Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago.
Most of the stained glass windows, which are magnificent, were not installed until forty years after the building was completed. They depart from tradition in that they not only depict biblical and Gothic themes, but also modern figures including composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, who was still very much alive when the windows were installed!
The church is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful in the Chicago area. It was featured in the movie "While You Were Sleeping" starring Sandra Bullock as the site of her parents' idyllic marriage.
The buildings and grounds committee painted the west door of the south building red in order to maintain and repair it, and because red is the traditional color of exterior doors in the Episcopal Church.
It was once explained that since the Middle Ages in England church doors were painted red as a sign of sanctuary. In those days, if either the sheriff or gentry were pursuing, you ran toward the red church door. If you could reach the red door and cross the boundary into the sanctuary you would be safe. Nobody would dare cause you harm on hallowed sacred ground.
More recently it's been said that the red door symbolizes the blood of Christ. When you enter the church you are reminded of your salvation through Christ. The red doors are also a sign of hospitality and openness. There are many explanations for why Episcopal Churches paint their doors red. We like to think the doors are red because the Holy Spirit dwells within -- not just inside our doors, but also in our bodies, minds, and souls.