BRONZEVILLE — Herman Murden watched with a heavy heart Wednesday morning as construction crews began to tear down St. James Catholic Church.
Murden, 28, was baptized at St. James, made his First Communion there and served as an altar boy at the 133-year-old Bronzeville church.
"It's a cold, dark day in the diocese," Murden said as he watched the teardown Wednesday. "I felt like they took the ax and hammer straight through my heart. I wanted to break down in tears but I couldn't. There's no words to describe the pain going through parishioners' hearts."
Despite efforts by parishioners to preserve the church, the Archdiocese of Chicago pushed forward with its demolition plans, and crews began sawing through the church's roof Wednesday. Services have not been held in the sanctuary, located at 2942 S. Wabash Ave., for four years.
"It was a part of history. It was such a beautiful building," said Cindy Lynch, who works in Bronzeville.
Real estate developer Joseph Cacciatore had offered to complete the renovation for a flat $5 million, according to a letter signed by Cacciatore provided by Friends of St. James, a group devoted to saving the neo-Gothic structure. But the archdiocese declined and plans to build a $4 million church nearby for the parish.
St. James was founded in 1855 for a South Side congregation of upwardly mobile Irish immigrants.
"It's a shame they have to close it," Lynch said, adding that Wednesday was her first time seeing the building. "I wish I could've seen the inside."