Abstract. Religious landscapes tell much more about a place than just religious adherence. The oftentimes strong correlation between ethnicity and religion means that a religious landscape can also be an ethnic landscape. In urban centers like Chicago, ethnic neighborhoods have long been identified by their central places of worship. The ethnic composition of neighborhoods, however, is not static. As one group moves up and out, another moves in. As a result, places of worship built to accommodate the original ethnic/religious group become places of worship for new residents. In the transition, new and growing groups may choose to share sacred space with the older and declining group. Through spatial succession of sacred space, sharing of sacred space, and converting profane space into sacred space, the ethnic groups of Chicago have created a fascinating and ever-changing religious landscape that tells much about the many different groups who live and worship in the city.
The urban landscape of Chicago tells many tales. But since urban landscapes are always evolving, little remains to testify of early periods of occupance. Gone are the Indian encampments, the military forts, and the farms. Gone, thanks to the famous fire and urban renewal, are the original houses and offices of the central city core. Gone too are the stockyards, many of the factories, and some of the railroad lines. In their places have emerged parks, expressways, airports, housing projects, and corporate headquarters. These ongoing changes are often viewed in neat little epochs, best identified by separate chapters in history books. In Chicago: Growth of a Metropolis, Mayer and Wade (1969, viii) use photographs to document the "physical growth and internal spatial patterns" of the city, for in no other way "can the successive stages of development" be seen. Their chapter headings illustrate these successive stages: Prairie Seaport, 1830-51; Railroad Capital, 1851-71; The Second City, 1871-93; The White City and the Gray, 1893-1917 (referring to the white Colombian Exhibition and the gray industrial city); War and Prosperity, 1917-45; and Revival and Crisis, 1945-69.
Chicago has indeed experienced sequent occupance, but it is more of an evolution than a series of epochs. Hornbeck, Earle, and Rodrigue (1996, 50) describe sequent occupance as a "well known approach in human geography" used "to describe spatial and landscape changes by reconstructing the character of landscapes at specific moments in the past." The problem with this method, they suggest, is that its proponents "adopt a slicing procedure that reveals a series of static landscapes that have reached their apogees." They continue:
This series of static slices is then put into motion, creating a cinematic portrait of landscape change. This motion, however, is more illusory than real for the simple reason that this sampling procedure obscures transitions and all of the confusions and complexities that attend them. Sequent occupance thus portrays landscape evolution as an inexorable, inevitable, and unproblematic process in which geographies evolve in ways that seem as though they could not have happened otherwise.
While the chapter headings and even individual photos used by Mayer and Wade (1969, 464) may indicate static slices, their work, when viewed in its entirety, does reveal the many transitions and complexities associated with sequent occupance. This process is noted in their conclusion:
The new skyline astonished people who had come to think of Chicago in static terms. Like every previous generation they lamented the passing of old landmarks and found much of the new shabby and pretentious. But those who know something about history realized that American cities have always been changing and dynamic; and Chicago, especially had been the most brash and audacious of all. As Carl Sandburg once said:
"Put the city up; tear the city down put it up again; let us find a city."
Yet Chicago would never be "found." For it was not only a place but a process. Every generation put its hand on it and around it, leaving a mark if not a memorial.
Many of the memorials of this evolving process of sequent occupance that have remained are the places of worship which dot the landscape of Chicago. Kantowicz (1995, 592) explains that these places of worship were built not only out of piety but that the "church buildings of each nationality nearly jostled one another as they proclaimed to God and man, `Here we are!'" Poles, for example, proclaimed their presence in Chicago with the gradual establishment by the 1920s of 54 ethnic parishes (nonterritorial parishes) scattered throughout the city, but concentrated primarily in the still-Polish core on the Northwest Side and in the industrial districts of the Southwest and South Sides (Kantowicz 1995). Many of these and other language-based parishes still remain, as indicated in figure 1.(1)
The distribution of Catholic parishes by the language in which mass was said provides some indication of the ethnic clustering that has been so much a part of Chicago's history. Other religious structures tell similar stories. Figure 2 shows the distribution of Missionary Baptist churches in Chicago. These churches are located almost exclusively in the predominantly African-American neighborhoods of Chicago's South and West Sides.(2) The distribution of synagogues as shown in figure 3 illustrates the heavy concentration of Chicago's Jewish community in the far North Side. It is to these neighborhoods where, in the last few decades, many of the Jews fleeing the USSR chose to gather. The three remaining synagogues in ethnically mixed Hyde Park are all that remain of a once much larger Jewish community on the South Side.
These and many other religious structures tell much about the waves of immigrants who have settled the city. Conzen (1990, 237) notes that houses of worship are often the most visible "ethnic imprint" on the urban landscape and that "[c]oncentrations of ethnic churches in particular neighborhoods, especially when they are of different denominations and within sight of each other, can vividly reflect ethnic mixing in and sharing of urban space." This ethnic mixing is never static. Peoples come and go, and with them comes an ever-changing religious landscape. Neighborhoods that once housed Ukrainian Orthodox or Norwegian Lutheran churches might now be home to Korean Presbyterian or African-American Missionary Baptist congregations.
One way to document the changing religious and ethnic landscape of a city or …