You’re browser is really old. Please update it for the best experience.

Celebrating 100 years of God’s faithfulness

Same Building, Different Church


God was preparing the current building before Calvary even started. W. G. Williamson designed the building in a Romanesque style, popularized by H. H. Richardson in 1873. It was modeled after Trinity Church in Boston and completed at the cost of $60,000.

The interior was designed by Louis Millet of Healy and Millet, the design firm responsible for the interior of Adler and Sullivan's Auditorium Building and the trading room of the Chicago Stock Exchange.1

Characteristics of Romanesque style:

  • Heavy Arches and Rough Stone – Heavy Indiana gray limestone arches contrast with the variegated, rough Wisconsin granite of the exterior walls.
  • Cylindrical towers with conical caps embedded in the walling.
  • Large tower – a smaller version of Trinity Church’s oversized main tower.
  • Round-headed arches — Often springing from clusters of short squat columns that frame recessed entrances.
  • Clay Roof – Durable roof that has been traced back as far as 3,000 B.C. in China and the Middle East.

It’s really a shame they remodeled in the 1950s. Photo courtesy of The Historical Society of Oak Park & River Forest.

First Meeting of Madison Street Church

March 21, 1915

A group of families met together to discuss “the feasibility of a new non-denominational church.” The group included Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Lutherans.

They held their first worship service and established Madison Street Church. The church met in a rented store building and started with less than $100, which they used to purchase chairs and hymnals. Sunday morning services were reserved for worship and instruction; Sunday evening services were for “the ministry of the gospel.”

Dr. Louis Talbot

At their fourth meeting church organizers voted unanimously to extend a call to Dr. Talbot to become their pastor.

Journal entry about the very first meeting

Early Growth


Starting with 21 people, the church grew to 47:

It might be well for us on this occasion to consider how great things the Lord hath done for us … we should be able to praise God for the way in which He has experimentally blessed us.

First Annual Report

A Flourishing Community

1920s & 1930s

Oak Park developed from just under 10,000 residents in 1900 to 40,000 residents in 1920.

By 1930, the village contained 64,000, more than the population today.2

Sending Our First Missionaries


The Holland family



A mere five years after the church began, Madison Street Church had four missionaries. On November 12, 1920, the church officers licensed Frederick Ernest Holland as a minister, “our missionary in British East Africa.”


The Spark


In a strange act of foreshadowing, Madison Street Church suffered an arson attempt in 1922. In response to the incident:

The work of the church is to preach the gospel and teach the Bible, that people may be saved from sin and built up in faith.

Interview with the Oak Leaves

Calvary Memorial Church


Madison Street Bible Church changed its name to Calvary Memorial Church.


A Community & Church Tested


Turmoil in Oak Park

“The village board created a Community Relations Commission charged with preventing discrimination, forestalling violent neighborhood defense mechanisms, and setting a high standard of behavior as the community prepared for imminent racial change.

In 1968, after lengthy and angry debate, and the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act, the village board passed an open-housing ordinance allowing officials to control many aspects of racial integration that otherwise were likely to lead to resegregation. Real-estate agents were banned from panic-peddling, blockbusting, and the use of ‘for sale’ signs.”

Encyclopedia of Chicago

The Fire

In 1977 a fire destroyed two-thirds of the former building. After two years of renting facilities and negotiations, Calvary purchased the current building at 931 Lake Street from First Presbyterian Church of Oak Park. Dr. Billy Graham was the commencement speaker.

Rev. Gerig was a strong proponent of a debt payment campaign in the 1980's, “We feel privileged to have been placed in this key location on Lake Street so that we may have a positive ministry for Jesus Christ in the Oak Park area.”


A New Era


Dr. Ray Pritchard was called to become the Senior Pastor and preached his first sermon on August 20, with his installation service on September 17, 1989. He received his Doctor of Ministry Degree from Talbot School of Theology which was established by the founding pastor, Dr. Louis Talbot.

“Growth in the church related to an outreach focus and to a belief that the Bible can speak to modern man.”

I have found the people of Oak Park and the congregation to be the warmest people I have ever met. Oak Park is vibrant, dynamic and stimulating.

Ray Pritchard, Interview with the Wednesday Journal

Looking Back, Pressing Forward

2008 - 2018

Calvary extended an invitation to Todd Wilson to become the Senior Pastor in August, 2008. Pastor Todd enthusiastically and faithfully served the congregation of Calvary for nearly a decade. 

Unify to Glorify: During his tenure, two distinct service styles became one so that we would come closer to glorifying God "with one mind and one voice" (Romans 15:6).



2019 - Present

On Sunday, November 18, 2018, Dr. Gerald Hiestand was called by the members of Calvary Memorial Church to become Calvary's thirteenth Senior Pastor, having served as Calvary's Executive Pastor under the leadership of Todd Wilson. We thank God for His kindness and provision to this congregation as we strive to be a faithful presence in the community of Oak Park.


Celebrating 100 Years

The Future

We celebrated 100 years of ministry on March 21, 2015. We also aspire, by God's grace, to be a blessing to Oak Park for another 100 years.

What Are We Missing?

Were you there? Do you have a photo, newspaper article, or interesting fact? Let us know so we can tell others about God’s faithfulness over the last 100 years.


Tell us ›