Libertyville brick church with red door has seen plenty over the years
St. Lawrence Episcopal Church
Updated: July 3, 2012 9:33AM
Since its early days Libertyville has been a church-going community -- the Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans and Roman Catholics established their congregations in Libertyville in the late 1800s, and all are still vibrant spiritual communities today.
It wasn’t until 1908 that the Episcopalians organized a congregation in town, but they have proved to be just as dedicated and long-lived as the other denominations.
In the fall of 1908, the Chicago Episcopalian Archdeacon made a preliminary survey of Libertyville and found ten faithful families to come together in regular worship. They met on Sunday afternoons twice a month, and the services were led by Reverend William Toll who came from Christ Church in Waukegan. The mission was dedicated to St. Lawrence by the Reverend Toll. The little congregation met in Woodman Hall, a lodge hall on the second floor of where Morgan’s Bar and Grill is today.
Two years later, in the spring of 1910, the Episcopalians rented the old Union Church, which stood idle, located on the present site of St. Lawrence Church. With their own building the people could begin weekly worship services. They were served by the Reverend A. G. Richards for the next two years.
In 1912, St. Lawrence church had the opportunity to buy the property it had been renting. The cost was $3,500, and once purchased the building was immediately renovated. In 1913 the Reverend Edward White became priest. The biggest event of his tenure was “the great calamity which was to make or break St. Lawrence’s,” according to the local paper. On Jan. 5, 1917, a fire was discovered in the church and by the time the fire department could be alerted, it was too late; the fire completely destroyed the church.
At that time Mr. Charles Esentrot, a new member of the congregation who was also a construction engineer and architect, stepped up to help. He quickly drew up plans for a new church which were acted upon at once. Mr. Esentrot was wise in the ways of the world and, sensing that war with its inflated prices was imminent, bought every bit of material that would be needed for construction, saving the congregation an estimated $25,000. The new church building, which still stands as part of St. Lawrence today, was dedicated on Dec. 4, 1917.
In 1944, St. Lawrence was consecrated as a full-fledged parish in the Chicago Episcopal diocese. In 1964 the Parish House (containing the sacristy, offices, and classrooms) was expanded. This was completely remodeled when a new sanctuary was built in 2003 and dedicated in 2004.
Some long-time Libertyville residents may remember the rectory of St. Lawrence Church. The house which was to become the rectory was built on the corner of Church Street and Brainerd Avenue in the early 1920s. It was moved closer to the church in 1935 when a post office was built on that location in 1935. The rectory was remodeled in 1950. This house was eventually razed in the early 1990s and the land was used for a beautiful English Garden.
The brick church with the red door on Church Street has seen much in its 100+ years. It is easier to track the changes and growth in the building than it is the spiritual growth and impact of its people. That story continues to be written and lived out in the members of the church today.
Arlene Lane and Sonia Schoenfield are members of the Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society and librarians at the Cook Memorial Public Library. Their monthly column explores historical topics and events local to Libertyville, Mundelein, and Vernon Hills. To suggest a topic or to provide feedback, contact them at email@example.com