A few days ago, I passed through Park Forest, the planned suburb developed by Chicago businessmen Philip Klutznick and Nathan Manilow right after World War II.
Park Forest was a sensation from the moment its plans were announced in a 1946 news conference at downtown’s Palmer House. On 2,400 acres of cornfields 30 miles south of Chicago, Klutznick and Manilow’s American Community Builders company built an entirely new middle class suburb, including schools, municipal buildings and the now defunct Park Forest Plaza, an outdoor shopping center in the middle of town.
Churches and synagogues were also built. And 60 years later, these structures are among Park Forest’s finest looking and best-maintained buildings. Especially the striking, modernist beauty in the photo above, Faith United Protestant Church, built in 1953 and designed by the celebrated architect Paul Schweikher.
I also like the accompanying carillon with 12 traditional-looking bells housed in a modern tower:
Here’s what Faith United, 10 Hemlock, looked like shortly after it opened 59 years ago:
I also liked St. Irenaeus, a brick and limestone Roman Catholic church at 78 E. Cherry. The building is more traditional than Faith United, but still modern if you squint hard enough. And look at that great steeple:
And there are more architecturally-distinctive houses of worship to see. My stay in Park Forest was just too brief.
The development of Park Forest made news across the country in the 1940s and early 1950s and was immortalized in William Whyte’s 1956 book The Organization Man. Whyte, who lived in Park Forest while researching the book, called the suburb “like every other suburb, only more so… a harbinger for the way America is going to be.”
One last thing: Check out this trailer for the Park Forest documentary, Chronicle of an American Suburb. You can see two more houses of worship as well as vintage footage and images of the Park Forest Plaza when it was new. You can also hear the town’s theme song, sung Robert Goulet-style: