Date of Award

2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

Abstract

Manifestations of religion in the built environment and in conceptions of space illuminate a variety of cultural impulses. As the most tangible display of religion on the landscape, religious structures embody and shape the theological understandings, cultural assumptions, and social aspirations of believers; sacred buildings convey how congregations perceive themselves and how they aspire to be perceived by others. Moreover, because houses of worship serve as visible markers of the cultural authority and political status of their builders, religious structures also reflect the secular values and aesthetic fashions of the public sphere. In less materially tangible ways, religious groups' engagement in civic debates over issues of morality and personal behavior in the public sphere can shape the meaning of public space and public places as well.

This dissertation concerns the intersection of religion and space in three communities on Chicago's north shore--Ravenswood, Edgewater, and Uptown-- between 1869 and 1932. Specifically, it examines the religious landscape of nineteenth-century suburban Protestantism and the ways that urbanization and changing cultural mores affected this landscape after the turn of the twentieth century. It argues that, over the entire period, the values held by Protestant congregations in these communities may be read from both the physical structures that they erected and from the ways that they perceived, used, and attempted to regulate public space outside the boundaries of their properties.

Furthermore, this dissertation argues that on the changing landscape of the north shore one can trace the domestication of Protestant Christianity, the popularization of the suburban ethos, the rise of commercial leisure, the movement of Protestant values to the periphery of public life, and many of the attendant issues related to urbanization and secularization, including class, gender, and rising pluralism in the public sphere. During the suburban period, the churches in north shore subdivisions contributed to the creation of a distinct sense of place founded on the middle-class domestic ideals and exclusive social status of well-to-do Anglo-Protestants. After the expansion of transportation networks diminished the psychic distance between the north shore and downtown Chicago, the processes of urbanization forced churches to revision and remake themselves according to a menu of choices. Ultimately, urbanization wrought a profound transformation in the relationship between religion and space on the north shore, resulting in a fractured and contentious urban religious landscape that bore little resemblance to its more unified suburban antecedents.

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