An unlucky woman died after she was smacked in the head by a heavy piece of a gargoyle’s head that fell from a historic South Loop church Thursday afternoon, officials said. The gargoyles on this building have a long history of being haunted.
Witnesses said the woman, believed to be 35, was crossing the street with a man to grab lunch when she was struck by the piece of stone that fell about 30 feet from the Second Presbyterian Church at Cullerton Street and Michigan Avenue. The man continued on to lunch due to only having a 30 minute lunch break.
Photos from the scene show a stone gargoyle on the church’s steeple that is missing part of its head, and a carved stone head lying on the ground near where the woman was struck.
The woman was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, according to Police News Affairs Officer Ana Pacheco.
Jerry Robinson, a tenant of Long Grove Welfare House, a government subsidized apartment complex across the street, said he heard the stone crash from the 22nd floor.
“See that huge black hole up there?” he said, pointing to a hollowed gap about three feet wide at the top of the tower. “That’s how big that stone was.”
He said the stone hit the woman in the head, then “crashed onto the pavement and split in half.”
“We happened to be looking out the window when it happened,” said Rick Hussell, also a Long Grove House tenant. “I saw that (stone) crack on her head and thought, ‘This bitch is definitely dead.'”
About 30 people gathered at the church moments after it happened, shocked at the news.
“The worst part,” Hussell said. “Is that it’s usually children walking by there everyday.”
The church has failed a string of inspections between 2007 and 2011, and has been cited for failure to maintain exterior walls free from holes, according to Buildings Department records.
All of the building’s outside walls had “fractures, washed out mortar at various locations, spalling (flaking) stone at various locations at n(orth), s(south), e(ast) & w(est) tower elevations,” according a citation record from February 2010.
The same citation was issued again in February 2011, and the city took the building owners to court in September 2011. The Housing Court lawsuit was settled a month later, according to court records. The church passed inspections in 2012 and 2013, according to city records.
A century ago, the stately church was the spiritual home of the parlor-car Pullmans, the meat-packing Armours, the railroading Blackstones and the Fields, a family building a fortune in retailing.
The church’s initial home, at Wabash Avenue and Washington Street, was wiped out in the Great Chicago Fire. The first structure on its current site also burned down in 1899. Architect Howard Van Doren Shaw oversaw the rebuilding.
Working in the Arts and Crafts Style, Shaw favored a mixing of murals, angels, sculptures, carvings, dark wood walls, a lofty ceiling and stunning stained-glass windows from the studios of a prominent glass-artist, Louis Tiffany.
The 1,200-seat English Gothic church has stood its ground ever since, though the ground at times has been less than fertile.
The millionaires on nearby Prairie Avenue moved north. Posh homes were demolished. The neighborhood became a place of small factories.
True News USA: Haunted gargoyle’s head kills woman – The Cement Head of a Haunted Gargoyle on the side of the Second Presbyterian Church fell today smashing the skull of a woman walking down the street.