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Baha'i House of Worship, Chicago

Photo © Bahá’í International Community. View all images in our Baha'i House of Worship Photo Gallery.
Photo © Bahá’í International Community.
Photo © Wally Gobetz.
Photo © Bahá’í International Community.
Photo © Bahá’í International Community.
Photo © Bahá’í International Community.

The following article was generously contributed by Todd Brogan.

When the sun rises over beautiful Lake Michigan, the Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette catches one of the best glimpses.  Affectionately and appropriately called the “Dawning Place,” the temple is one of suburban Chicago’s most pristine architectural wonders. 

From the Sears Tower, the Baha’i temple is a distant dot in Chicago’s sprawling landscape.  Up close, however, it reaches twenty stories into the sky, ending in a delicate point above the building’s ornate dome.

History

Founded in Iran in the mid-1800s, the Baha’i Faith can be found today in every corner of the world, with the United States being no exception. As a matter of fact, the U.S. has one of the oldest and largest Baha’i communities. 

Nowhere is this presence better felt than in this north-Chicago suburb.  Wilmette’s Baha’i House of Worship is the oldest of the faith’s seven temples worldwide, and the only one in the Western Hemisphere.

Designed by Canadian Louis Bourgeois, the building was dedicated on May 1, 1953, over thirty years after the cornerstone was laid by Abdu’l Baha, son of Bahá’u’lláh (the prophet-founder of the faith).  Today, the temple is undergoing various seen and unseen renovations as part of the Baha’i-funded Kingdom Project. 

What to See

As with all of the Baha’i Houses of Worship, Wilmette’s has nine sides, a towering dome, and is the centerpiece to a brilliantly colorful garden of reflecting pools, endless tulips, and high junipers. 

Indeed, the building’s lacelike exterior of cast concrete and quartz make it the most striking “central sculpture” to any garden in the country. 

Although it is located in the basement, the visitors center is a necessary stop.  The lower level houses a bookshop of Baha’i works as well as a visual history of the temple and representations of the faith.

Upon entering the basement, visitors first see the doors to Foundation Hall, oftentimes with a Baha’i youth waiting to welcome you. Foundation Hall is the original structure and meeting area atop of which the current temple stands. 

Most interestingly, however, is a small room in the corner of the lower level.  Here, a white, antique rocking chair sits quietly to the side of a large cornerstone.

The cornerstone is of significance not only because it was the first part of the building laid, but also because it was done so by Abdu’l Baha, the son of Bahá’u’lláh.


The rocking chair also has Abdu’l Baha connections: it was owned and used by him during his stay with Baha’is in nearby Kenosha, Wisconsin. Abdu’l Baha was a major propagator and leader of the faith from the 1890s until the 1920s.

Upstairs, the round main temple area (or Auditorium) is flooded with light during the day. The entire interior is covered in delicate, lacy detail.

Baha’i Houses of Worship feature no depictions of figures of the faith, both because Baha’is avoid portraying the founders in art forms and as a sign of respect for other faiths. Baha’i temples are meant to serve as places of interfaith activity, where all people of faiths can worship God. 

But there are some particularly Baha’i features in the temple, including: a calligraphic Arabic phrase in the center of the dome (a Baha'i symbol known as the Greatest Name that reads "O Glory of the Most Glorious!"); a few lines from the writings of Bahá’u’lláh bordering the tops of the building’s interior walls; and nine-pointed stars, a symbol commonly used by Baha’is to represent their faith.

In another sign of interfaith recognition, exterior pillars of the temple feature symbols representing some of the world’s faiths, including the Star of David (Judaism), a cross (Christianity), the swastika (an ancient religious symbol), and more.  (See photo at right; click to enlarge.)

Quick Facts on Baha'i House of Worship

Site Information
Names:Baha'i House of Worship; Baha'i House of Worship, Chicago
City:Chicago
State:Illinois
Country:USA
Categories:Temples
Faiths:Bahai Faith
Status:active
Visitor and Contact Information
Location:Chicago, Illinois, USA
Coordinates:42.074399° N, 87.684331° W  (view on Google Maps)
Lodging:View hotels near this location
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

Map of Baha'i House of Worship

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References

  1. Baha’i Temple - Chicago Magazine
  2. U.S. Baha’i House of Worship — US National Spiritual Assembly
  3. Baha’i House of Worship — Wikipedia

More Information

Article Info

Title:Baha'i House of Worship, Chicago
Author:Holly Hayes
Last updated:10/25/2009
Permalink:www.sacred-destinations.com/usa/chicago-bahai-house-of-worship/usa/chicago-bahai-house-of-worship
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