February 24, 2005


Church auctioning off basement bowling alley (RUMMANA HUSSAIN, February 24, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

Parishioners at St. Mary of the Angels Church lost interest decades ago in the basement bowling alley.

Now they're about to lose the alley -- to the highest bidder.

The Bucktown church's vintage Brunswick six-lane B-1 bowling alley -- complete with original ball holders, ball polishers, two seats and pin washer -- will be auctioned off on eBay today with the starting price of $9,000.

The bowling alley was probably installed shortly after the church at 1850 N. Hermitage was built in 1920 for Polish immigrants, according to Diane Hudec, vice president of auctionBay Inc., the Chicago eBay consignment company handling the auction that will benefit the church.

The bowling alley wasn't used much after World War II, and most parishioners are not even aware it's there. It has been used for storage for 60 years, Hudec said.

Before the Internet, cosmic bowling and even television, churches were neighborhoods' primary social centers, so it was common for them to have a bowling alley, according to Jim Dressel, editor of the Chicago-based Bowlers Journal International, the oldest sports magazine in the country. Dressel said he doesn't know whether any other church in the Chicago area has an alley.

The Grandmother Judd used to take us to a church in Brooklyn with a bowling alley in the basement, which was wicked cool--only problem? you had to run to the end of the lane after each frame and set the pins by hand. It made bowling the most physically exhausting sport on Earth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 24, 2005 10:49 AM


Posted by: oj at February 24, 2005 1:04 PM

St. MotA is a fantastic church. The size of a basilica really.

Was really run down by the 80s -- appeared as such in a Steven Segal movie about drug dealers -- but then Opus Dei took it over and rehabbed it.

Really nice place to attend Mass. Folks are actually encouraged to go to confession, receive communion kneeling at the old rails etc.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at February 24, 2005 1:26 PM

My son lives in Bucktown.Where is Hermitage from Western Avenue. Thanks

Posted by: jdkelly at February 24, 2005 1:37 PM

Hermitage is between Damen and Ashland, which puts it about 1700 west (Western is 2400 west). 1850 Hermitage would put it a block and change south of Armitage. If it's the one I'm thinking of, it would be just across the street from the Orloff car dealerships. Pass it every evening.

I just love the way Chicago is laid out on a grid!

Posted by: Rick T. at February 24, 2005 2:06 PM

Rick T.
Thanks much.

Posted by: jdkelly at February 24, 2005 3:09 PM

Yep. About a block west of the Kennedy expressway , just south of Armitage. A little less than a mile east of Western Ave.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at February 24, 2005 5:29 PM

Those Catholics! Dime bottles of beer in the basement bowling alley. What'll they think of next?

Posted by: John J. Coupal at February 24, 2005 5:31 PM

Our Episcopal church in Rome, NY had a two lane alley with manually operated pinsetters in the basement of its parish hall. Seemed to be for men only and mostly for men over 60. I last saw the lanes back in the early 1960s but for all I know they may still be there.

Posted by: George at February 26, 2005 11:24 AM