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Bing Crosby Helped Buy The Massive Organ At The Stunning St. Ita Church

By Linze Rice | October 16, 2017 5:12am
 Completed in 1927, St. Ita Catholic Church in Edgewater has undergone a stunning restoration and still maintains much of its original detail and glory.
St. Ita Catholic Church
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EDGEWATER — Legendary performer Bing Crosby was known for having a unique set of pipes and, as it turns out, it was a gift he was willing to share. 

When the classic crooner came to town for events, he often stayed at the luxurious former Edgewater Beach Hotel.

On Sundays, after a night of entertainment, Crosby would head just a few blocks west to St. Ita Catholic Church, 5500 N. Broadway, to trade cocktails and conversation for communion and confession.

During those years, he also made sure to leave his mark on the massive, ornate church: When St. Ita needed a new organ Crosby himself offered up a generous chunk of change to make it happen. 

In the balcony sits the evidence: a 1951 Wicks Organ whose wingspan evokes images of the very angels the church's hymns sing praise to. In 2003, the organ underwent a complete restoration by H.A. Howell Pipe Organs Inc.

Today it contains more than 4,200 pipes — ranging in diameter from 32 feet to the size of a pencil, according to the church, which allowed the public to see its spectacular sanctuary during Saturday's Open House Chicago 2017 tour, put on by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. 

"The pipes in plain view are only a small portion of the pipe work which is housed in the chambers behind the grill work," according to the church. "It is a remarkable work of art in its configuration and complexity. The union of such a marvelous instrument and such an exquisite worship space makes this an irreplaceable asset to the parish and surrounding community."

St. Ita Parish first came to be in 1900, but it wasn't until architect Henry J. Schlacks' completion of the North Broadway church in 1927 that parishioners had a true home. 

Schlacks' French Gothic design was modeled after iconic buildings in France like the church of St. Nicholas, Brou in Burgandy, France. 

The structure also contains more than 200,000 pieces of original stained glass artwork in 2,800 square feet of window space, inspired by the Cathedral of Chartes, also in France. 

Other building materials include 42,000 cubic feet of limestone from Bedford, Ind., a 128-foot bell tower containing 1,800 tons of stone, wainscotting and pews made from fumed oak, steps made of Belgian black marble, altars of Istrian stone, a white and yellow marble floor, French ceramic tiles and oil canvases.

Get a sneak peek inside the church below, including photos of its famous organ. 

All photos by DNAinfo/Linze Rice.