St. Nicholas Cathedral: The Ukranian Village Church That Shaped The Neighborhood
Ukrainian Village is located in the West Town area of Chicago, bordered by Damen, Western, Grand, and Division streets. It is named after the Ukrainian immigrants who settled here starting in the late nineteenth century.
It is still home to the Ukrainian-American community in Chicago, and many of their cultural centers. Among them, St. Nicholas Cathedral is a prominent church in Ukrainian Village, and it has played an important role in the history of the neighborhood.
But how did Ukrainian Village come to be the home of cultural centers, and to a major church for the community?
Ukrainian Village History
The area was first developed by German immigrants after the great Chicago fire in 1871. Soon, after, it saw an influx of Eastern European immigrants, primarily from Ukraine and Russia.
The bulk of the immigrants came to the United States in four waves, starting in the late 19th century and continuing all the way to the 1980s.
The initial wave brought mostly working-class immigrants, while the latter ones attracted highly skilled people and entrepreneurs.
With the progression of the migrant settlements in the area, the Ukrainians gradually outnumbered all the other national backgrounds. By the 1930s, the majority of the 28,000 Ukranian-Americans in Chicago lived in this relatively small area, giving it a distinct Ukrainian identity.
Walking some of the streets, one can still experience a little piece of history in this relatively small neighborhood, as some of the streets have preserved the original housing built in the late 1800s.
St. Nicholas Cathedral
As the community grew, Ukrainian Village saw the rise of quite a few different places to worship. There’s the Saints Volodymyr & Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church, Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral, and the St. Nicholas Ukrainian Church.
St. Nicholas Cathedral is particularly striking, and it offers a glimpse of the history and character of the neighborhood.
The Ukrainian Village church bears a strong resemblance to St. Sophia’s Cathedral in Kiev, and it even has a picture of the famous Kiev church above the altar.
Originally planned by a group of Ukrainian laborers, the church was established in 1906. The construction of the present-day church was completed by 1915. It has served as a place for the Ukrainian community to gather and worship ever since.
The parish also has a school that was established in 1936. With more people joining the congregation, the school has to grow in 1954.
In 1961, the parish of St. Nicholas was significant enough to earn the cathedral status. Today, it is still the Ukranian Village church that is one of the more prominent places for the community to congregate.
Current State of Ukrainian Village
While Ukranian Village has been able to preserve its heritage and past (partly due to its status as a landmark district), the neighborhood continues to evolve and transform into a vibrant city community. It’s a favorite spot for professionals, artists, and young parents.