The many names of Chicago’s Russian church

Holy Trinity Cathedral in Chicago, 1906

Holy Trinity Cathedral in Chicago, 1906

Sometimes, we historians deal with big, important issues. Other times, we obsess over minutae. Today is one of the latter occasions.

Chicago’s OCA cathedral, known for the past century as Holy Trinity, had a lot of names in its early years. It’s a pretty convoluted history, and I am attempting to unravel it. Here’s what I’ve got so far.

The parish was formally founded as St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church on May 18, 1892, and it was originally located at #20 North Peoria. By the next spring, the church had moved to #13 South Center Avenue, and in May, we find the first reference to the parish as St. Vladimir Russian Orthodox Church. It’s possible that the name was changed along with the location.

Most of the time, the newspapers didn’t bother to refer to the parish name at all, instead just calling it the “Russian Church,” or something like that. But it was clearly just “St. Vladimir” into 1895. Then, on November 23, a new name appears: St. Ivan Russian Orthodox Church.

But the parish didn’t just become “St. Ivan.” In the years that followed, both names were used in the newspapers. “St. Vladimir” tends to be the dominant name, but “St. Ivan” pops up a number of times as well. It’s a bit of a mystery. The priest of the church was, of course, Fr. John (Ivan) Kochurov, so it’s possible that his own name got mixed up with that of the parish. But “St. Ivan” appeared numerous times, in multiple newspapers, over a period of several years, so it hardly seems like a simple error. Perhaps some of our readers associated with Holy Trinity Cathedral could shed some light on this.

In any event, in 1902, the parish broke ground for a new cathedral on Leavitt Street. While the new structure was being built, the community continued to be called, “St. Vladimir,” but once the move was complete, the name was changed one final time, to Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral.

Another interesting wrinkle is the persistence of the original name, “St. Nicholas.” While the parish was never called that after 1892 or so, the it did have a “Brotherhood of St. Nicholas.” I’ve found references to this brotherhood in 1899 and again in 1902, but I don’t know exactly what its function was.