Organized religion plays a major role in the culture of our Northern Illinois/Southern Wisconsin region. We enjoy highlighting places of worship, one in the country and one in the city.
“Faith consists of believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.”
Country Church: St. Peter’s Episcopal Church • Est. 1847
Rock & Main streets, Grand Detour, Ill., (815) 677-1687, whitepinesinn.com
Leonard Andrus founded Grand Detour in 1835, naming it after the site’s most dominant feature: a large bend in the Rock River. In just a few years, the little village had grown to include a dam, race and sawmill, a flour mill, a cradle factory, several stores and a couple of blacksmith shops. Andrus and one blacksmith, John Deere, formed a company that manufactured plows.
In 1845, Rev. Abraham Joseph Warner was sent out by the Domestic Missionary Society to the Rock River Valley to establish an Episcopal church. He visited Sterling, Rock Falls, Dixon and other places, but decided that the most promising location was Grand Detour, which had become one of the most important settlements in the region.
In 1847, the parish of St. Peter was organized, and the newly elected church officials immediately began focusing efforts on building a new church on land donated by Andrus. Ground was broken in 1849, and the simple stone building with a wooden belfry was completed in 1850.
Unfortunately, shortly afterwards, the railroad developed towns to the east and south, and Grand Detour lost a majority of its residents. The little church fell into disrepair, eventually closing and remaining vacant for almost 50 years.
In the 1900s, Grand Detour’s natural beauty attracted new residents, and an artists’ colony – overflow from nearby Eagle’s Nest in Oregon – revived the little village. In 1909, Andrus’ son, William, repaired the church, even installing a new oak altar, and services were held by the Dixon priest each Sunday.
In 1999, local citizens formed a nonprofit group and completely restored the historic church, adding heating and air conditioning. Today, the church is used for community events and can be rented for weddings.
City Church: Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion • Est. 1849
122 Broad St., Lake Geneva, Wis., (262) 248-3522, holycommunionlakegeneva.com
his is one of the oldest Episcopal parishes in Walworth County. Around 1844, the Rev. Jackson Kemper began holding services in nearby Bloomfield, leading to the formation of this church in 1849. Its first pastor came from New York City and named the new parish after his church there.
The congregation held services in the Presbyterian Church, which it purchased in 1857, when the Presbyterians moved to their new building. That same year, Holy Communion acquired two plots on the corner of Broad and Geneva streets. About this time, Lake Geneva began to attract the wealthy of Chicago as a resort getaway, and many of them made Holy Communion their church while in Lake Geneva.
Construction of the present church, along with the adjacent rectory, began with the laying of the cornerstone in 1880. Designed by Chicago architects Treat & Voltz, the Gothic-style church features a cut stone exterior and a multi-gabled roof with dormers. Native granite boulders of various colors were split and laid in an irregular pattern, flat sides out, for the exterior, and the windows and roof coping are outlined with limestone. Inside, the 43-foot-high ceiling is buttressed with oak beams.
Construction was completed in 1882, and on June 7, the church was officially consecrated by the Bishop of Milwaukee, followed by three days of celebration attended by a train of special guests from Chicago.
The church was updated and renovated in the early 1960s, including restoration of the rare Hook & Hastings pipe organ and installation of stations of the cross that were hand-carved in Germany.
Currently, The Rev. Canon James A. Kaestner, interim pastor, leads morning prayer or Holy Eucharist on Wednesdays at 10 a.m., and traditional worship on Sundays at 10 a.m.