Church of the Three Hierarchs (Streator, Illinois)
The Church of the Three Hierarchs in Streator, Illinois was one of the earliest Orthodox Churches in the central United States. The parish was organized in the early 1890s under the jurisdiction of Bishop Nicholas of Alaska of the Russian Orthodox Church, it was also one of the first Orthodox churches in the United States to have a church building in a recognizably Russian Orthodox style. Unfortunately, this building was sold in 1910 to non-Orthodox congregations. As a result most of the church building's distinctive decoration was stripped, and in 1964, the entire structure was razed to make way for a bigger church building for the Polish Roman Catholic congregation that had settled there. The parish itself was also disbanded in the 1960s.
Streator, Illinois is a small city in north-central Illinois whose rise was due in large part to the coal mines located nearby. A significant number of people who came to Streator were of Eastern European background, and a number of Orthodox created a mutual aid society, one of whose goals was to establish an Orthodox Church in this community.
In the early 1890s, a similar movement was going on in Chicago, 80 miles away, which resulted in the establishment of St. Vladimir's there (later to become Holy Trinity Cathedral). Due to this relative proximity, Fr. Ambrose Vretta, who had been installed as priest in Chicago in May of 1892, also became priest of the church in Streator when it was dedicated in December of 1894.
The church building itself had been commissioned by Tsar Alexander III of Russia and was part of the Russian Pavilion inside the Manufacturer's Building of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. The entire Russian Pavilion was built in a dark wood, was designed by the Tsar's favorite architect, Ivan Ropet, in a 17th century Muscovite style, and reported to resemble the palace in which Peter the Great was born. It was built and assembled in Russia so that the Tsar could observe it, disassembled, then sent to Chicago, where it was reassembled for the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. Once the fair was over, arrangements were made for the purchase of its façade, tower, and traditional ornamentation by the congregation in Streator, and again, it was disassembled, then reassembled at its new home at 401 South Illinois Street. However, the bell from the church was to go to the St. Vladimir Church in Chicago for the time at which they would have their own church building.
The new church was dedicated on December 2nd, 1894, with Bishop Nicholas in attendance, as well as other visiting priests from as far away as San Francisco and Wilkes-Barre. At the time of its dedication, it was reported that the congregation numbered about 200.
Fr. Ambrose's tenure in this area did not last much longer, for in 1895, he made his way west to Seattle to found St. Spiridon Church. Replacing him was a young priest by the name of Fr. John Kochurov. With a missionary's zeal, Fr. John worked hard in Streator to strengthen the parish and to try to bring in the Eastern Rite Slovak Catholics who were in Streator but who had no church of their own. He generally served in Streator every third Sunday of the month, with additional services during Lenten periods. This continued until 1905, when Fr. Michael Potochny, became the first permanent priest. Fr. Michael had been part of the parish since at least 1895, serving as choirmaster and starosta as far back as Fr. Ambrose's tenure.
In 1910, the church building was sold to a Beaulah Baptist congregation. In 1916, the building was sold again, this time to a Polish Roman Catholic congregation which was named St. Casimir. Over the years as a non-Orthodox church, all the Russian trappings of the building were eventually removed, and in the end every surface of the original exterior had been covered with brick-patterned asphalt siding. In 1964, St. Casimir Church razed this building to the ground in order to build a bigger church, citing its small interior and as well as general condition. The parish disbanded in the 1960s.
- A History of Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Chicago, 1892-1992 (ISBN 0963274309)
- A lost piece of Carpatho-Rusyn history in Streator, Illinois - Lake Michigan Rusyns site
- Shadows of the Motherland Russian Orthodoxy in downstate Illinois - by William Furry, Illinois Times, August 6, 2009
- Streatorland bulletin board - Photos, newspaper articles, and background
- Priestmartyr John Kochurov - OCA site
- Fr. Ambrose Vretta - The First Russian Priest in Chicago and Seattle Orthodox History site