Breaking Ground at Grosse Point 1
Early this morning, May 1, 1912, they had begun to assemble on this piece of land in the village of Wilmette. The Master had arrived at 1 p.m. First he took a private moment to console Mrs. Corinne True, whose son, Davis, had passed away the night before. Mrs. True had invested more than five years of her life in finding a site for the temple, and in raising the funds necessary to buy the land. Today, in spite of her recent loss, she was here to see things through. Then ‘Abdu’l-Bahá walked under the large tent where three hundred people sat on chairs in concentric circles, between nine equally spaced aisles. He strode to the center and began to talk about this unique religious institution.
“Thousands,” he said, “will be built in the East and in the West.” 2 But they were more than just places to pray. They would become the central edifices in a complex of institutions devoted to social, humanitarian, educational, and scientific pursuits. Together, they would offer a new model of faith dedicated to the service of humankind. They would become “one of the most vital institutions in the world.” 3
On Wednesday, May 1, the day ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was to lay the foundation stone for the first Bahá’í House of Worship in the Western Hemisphere, weather forecasters in the Chicago Daily News predicted unsettled conditions “and probably occasional showers to-night.” A marquee tent had been set up on the Temple site, with three hundred chairs arranged in nine sections separated by aisles leading to a central open area. A special entryway had been prepared for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s carriage in the middle of the eastern side of the tract. He arrived, instead, by taxi and entered on the northern side. Pacing back and forth before the filled chairs and two hundred additional person who were standing, He spoke of the importance of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár 4 5
Talk at Dedication of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár Grounds, Wilmette, Illinois
The power which has gathered you here today notwithstanding the cold and windy weather is, indeed, mighty and wonderful. It is the power of God, the divine favor of Bahá’u’lláh which has drawn you together. We praise God that through His constraining love human souls are assembled and associated in this way.
Thousands of Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs, dawning points of praise and mention of God for all religionists will be built in the East and in the West, but this, being the first one erected in the Occident, has great importance. In the future there will be many here and elsewhere—in Asia, Europe, even in Africa, New Zealand and Australia—but this edifice in Chicago is of especial significance. It has the same importance as the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár in ‘Ishqábád, Caucasus, Russia, the first one built there. In Persia there are many; some are houses which have been utilized for the purpose, others are homes entirely devoted to the divine Cause, and in some places temporary structures have been erected. In all the cities of Persia there are Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs, but the great dawning point was founded in ‘Ishqábád. It possesses superlative importance because it was the first Mashriqu’l-Adhkár built. All the Bahá’í friends agreed and contributed their utmost assistance and effort. The Afnán devoted his wealth, gave all he had to it. From such a mighty and combined effort a beautiful edifice arose. Notwithstanding their contributions to that building, they have assisted the fund here in Chicago as well. The Mashriqu’l-Adhkár in ‘Ishqábád is almost completed. It is centrally located, nine avenues leading into it, nine gardens, nine fountains; all the arrangement and construction is according to the principle and proportion of the number nine. It is like a beautiful bouquet. Imagine a very lofty, imposing edifice surrounded completely by gardens of variegated flowers, with nine avenues leading through them, nine fountains and pools of water. Such is its matchless, beautiful design. Now they are building a hospital, a school for orphans, a home for cripples, a hospice and a large dispensary. God willing, when it is fully completed, it will be a paradise.
I hope the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár in Chicago will be like this. Endeavor to have the grounds circular in shape. If possible, adjust and exchange the plots in order to make the dimensions and boundaries circular. The Mashriqu’l-Adhkár cannot be triangular in shape. It must be in the form of a circle. 6
- Sockett, Robert. “Breaking Ground at Grosse Point.” 239 Days in America, May 1, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/05/01/dont-call-it-a-church/. [return]
- Effendi, Shoghi. God Passes By. 1944. Reprint, Wilmette, IL: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1970, 351.https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/shoghi-effendi/god-passes-by/1#337700484. [return]
- Baháʾuʾlláh. The Kitáb-i-Aqdas: The Most Holy Book. Haifa: Baháʾi World Centre, 1992, 190-191. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/bahaullah/kitab-i-aqdas/13#371279610. [return]
- Bahá’í Houses of Worship, or Temples, are called Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs, an Arabic word meaning the “Dawning Place of the Mention of God.” The first one was built in Turkistan, the second in Wilmette, Illinois, where Abdu’l-Bahá laid the foundation stone on May 1, 1912. Eventually each city will have a Mashriqu’l-Adhkár. [return]
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 51. [return]
- ʻAbduʼl-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ʻAbduʼl-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Edited by Howard MacNutt. 2nd ed. Wilmette, Ill: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1982, 71-72. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/4#181680280. [return]