The historic 1913 building that houses the national headquarters of the Polish Roman Catholic Union and the Polish Museum of America was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 2, 2013. Home to the oldest of the Polish national fraternal associations, its significance derives from its role in the ethnic heritage of Chicago, the most Polish of American cities. The red brick, four-story commercial block on Milwaukee Avenue in the heart of Chicago’s old Polish Downtown, continues to function today as a cultural and intellectual anchor for the Polish community in America.
When the PRCUA was founded in 1873 it chose the neighborhood centered at Division Ashland and Milwaukee for its headquarters. Known as “Stanislowowo-Trojcowo,” almost half of all Chicago Poles lived there. Plans for the new PRCUA headquarters envisioned a “precious community resource” which would include a library and a great meeting hall for community events. The association’s core business of providing insurance to its membership would be expanded with educational and charitable activities of a wide variety.
Polish architect John Flizikowski, with a prominent local reputation, was chosen to execute the design. He created a principal facade that gently curves around the southwest corner of Milwaukee and Augusta, with terra cotta ornament providing classical accents above the storefronts, surrounding the entrance and corner window bays, and at the cornice level. The words “DOM ZJEDNOCZENIA POLSKIEGO RK” which translate as “Home of the Polish Roman Catholic Union” remain incised at the top. The building retains rich historic materials throughout its interior offices, meeting rooms, and museum spaces. It continues to be used for the purposes it was built.
The Polish Roman Catholic Union of America and the Polish Museum of America are among the few remaining Polish institutions in an area of Chicago where once were clustered the headquarters of almost every major Polish organization in America. The PRCUA building and the Polish Museum of America that it houses stands as a beacon in Chicago’s Polish Downtown – a lasting reminder of the historic origins of Chicago’s Polonia, which dominated this neighborhood well into the mid-20th century. As the PRCUA celebrates its 140th year, a new museum entrance will be dedicated later this year, inviting all to enter and share in our Polish heritage.
For more information, see: National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Polish Roman Catholic Union of America Building by William Ippen and Daniel Ott, 2012; and National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form: Ethnic European Historic Settlement in the City of Chicago, 1860-1930 by Victoria Granacki, Jennifer Kenny, and Greg Rainka, 2008.
984 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL 773-384-3352
Open every day except Thursday, from 11- 4pm. www.polishmuseumofamerica.org