Monday, April 2, 2018

April 2, 1937 -- Shiloh Temple in Zion Destroyed by Fire

Shiloh Temple, Zion City
April 2, 1937 – Shiloh tabernacle in Zion City is destroyed by fire.  The three-story wooden building which once seated 8,000 and hosted a choir of 500 is destroyed in 40 minutes.  The temple was constructed in 1900 with donations gathered under the direction of John Alexander Dowie, who claimed to be the reincarnation of the Biblical prophet, Elijah, calling himself Elijah the Restorer.  His successor, Wilbur Glenn Voliva, who, among other things preached that the earth was flat, took over the temple after Dowie’s death.  A day after the building is destroyed, 19-year-old Thomas Griffith confesses to the arson, saying that he poured kerosene on lumber stored beneath the floor of the temple and lighted it.  Griffith says that some time earlier his adoptive parents handed over money to Voliva although he could not say whether it was a donation or an investment.  When Griffith’s mother died, he claims, Voliva offered no money to help with her burial, which caused him to leave the church.  “I suppose I’ll get a long jail term,” Griffith says, “but it’s worth it; my conscience is clear.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 4, 1937]

April 2, 1943 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that a contract has been signed that will lead to the demolition of 14 buildings on the 13-acre site of the Veterans Administration hospital, and the cleared land will become part of the west side medical center.  Plans are to proceed with the construction of a 500-bed facility although an increase in government funding could double the size of the hospital.  The demolition plans include all of the houses on the site that will have been vacated up to May 15.  After that the razing of the more than 200 buildings still remaining on the site will be covered under the contract for the construction of the hospital itself.  In 1941, two years before he was elected as an alderman of the Twenty-Fifth Ward, Illinois State Representative Vito Marzullo of Chicago convinced the governor and the legislature to pass the Medical District Act of 1941.  The first piece of property for the district was purchased that same year.  Today the district consists of 560 acres, supports four world-class medical facilities, and the whole thing is located less than two miles from the center of the city.  The red perimeter marking the boundaries of the district in the above photo gives an idea of what began with the demolition of those first 14 buildings back in 1943.

April 2, 1900 -- Mr. L. V. Rice, the receiver in charge of the Ferris wheel that made its debut at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, asks the Circuit Court for permission to begin taking down the wheel so that its 2,200 tons of iron and steel may be sold for scrap. After the fair concluded in October, 1893 the wheel was moved north to Wrightwood and North Clark. Although 1,750,000 people rode the attraction in the six months of the 1893 fair; fewer than 500,000 climbed aboard in the ensuing five years. The Ferris wheel did, however, have one last life. It was moved to St. Louis as part of the World's Fair in that city, but only survived two more years before it was blown up in 1896. The photo above shows the great wheel somewhere close to where Dunlay's on Clark and Floyd's 99 Barbershop stand today.

1 comment:

Tom Mattausch said...

Thanks for the note about my great uncle, Thomas Griffith. While he was awaiting trial, someone tried to burn down The Zion Home, a hotel/convalescent home. The same person who burned the tabernacle, or just the next inline to try and take down the cult?
At trial, Thomas changed his tune, saying he only confessed to bring his grievances to light. He was found innocent! The trial was held outside of Zion, in Waukegan, where there may have been sympathies for a foster kid angry with a cult. An early case of jury nullification?
I can't approve of my great uncle's methods, but it sure seems he was successful (if he did do it). With their tabernacle and early powerhouse radio station propaganda machine gone (also in the fire), the "Christian" Catholic Apostolic Church and its grip on power in Zion seems to have faded into history. They were never going to be the Mormons, but they might have done more brainwashing and depriving people of medicine if the night staying dark on April 2, 1937.