Wilmette, Community

Wilmette church stands tall in ‘Home Alone,’ but local filming was almost denied

Movie permit passed 4-3 in 1990, and church’s appearance is now major source of local pride

Filmmakers like to keep their projects under wraps. So it can be difficult for municipalities to know what they are getting into when considering a filming permit.

Wilmette, though, like some of its neighbors, has a history of ushering through such permits and the result has been a local source of pride, and maybe none more so than the local church that plays a crucial supporting role in a Christmas classic.

“People are very pleased to see Trinity (United Methodist) church in ‘Home Alone,’ and that goes for all movies filmed here,” said John Jacoby, former Wilmette village president. “There’s something about being able to identify your own community when you go to see a major motion picture and say, ‘That’s us.’ It’s fun, and that’s one of the reasons the village has always been pretty liberal when accommodating filmmakers.”

A still from the holiday classic “Home Alone” that features Trinity United Methodist Church in Wilmette.

That leniency, however, wasn’t necessarily the case when Twentieth Century Fox approached the Village of Wilmette in 1989 and came in front of the Village Board on Feb. 6, 1990, according to meeting minutes provided by the Village of Wilmette.

Two trustees and Jacoby, the village president at the time, voted against the production company’s request to film at Trinity United Methodist Church, 1024 Lake Ave. Jacoby could not recall why he dissented, and the minutes only note that “discussion followed” the motion.

The minutes also mention that the production company had to change filming dates and were requesting either Feb. 22 or March 19, and the permit was conditional on further discussions with Wilmette’s village manager and the local police and fire departments.

Fortunately, the measure passed thanks to four trustees in favor, and filming began in the late winter of 1990.

Trinity United Methodist Church regally rises from the northeast corner of Lake and Wilmette avenues. Its historic and majestic architecture is a memorable sight in “Home Alone,” even though it only appears in two scenes.

In the film, Kevin Mccallister (the child left home alone played by Makauley Culkin,) uses the church’s nativity as a hiding spot to escape the “wet bandits” (Daniel Stern, Joe Pesci), burglars trying to break into Kevin’s home. Later in the film, Kevin approaches the church for a respite, leading to a pivotal conversation with Old Man Marley (Roberts Blossom) — the conversation inside the church was filmed at a separate location, Grace Episcopal Church, 924 Lake St., in Oak Park.

The minutes from the Wilmette Village Board meeting on Feb. 6, 1990, when the board approved the “Home Alone” filming permit.

The iconic holiday movie has made an impact on generations, and people come from all over to visit the filming sites, many of which are in the North Shore, like the Mccallister home in Winnetka, New Trier High School in Northfield and Hubbard Woods Park in Winnetka.

Trinity Rev. Dr. Brian Smith told The Record via email that the church is happy to welcome “Home Alone” fans throughout the year.

“The fans of ‘Home Alone’ represent all walks of life and span multiple generations,” he wrote. “The number of visitors increases somewhat in December when our outdoor crèche is on the front lawn. Most just take selfies and check in on social media. Some people time their visit during Sunday morning worship to peak at the beautiful Sanctuary.”

Lindsay Noelle is one such visitor.

Also known as the Make It Fun Mom, Noelle took her two children on a “Home Alone” tour in 2022, stopping at the famed house on Lincoln Avenue in Winnetka, as well as Hubbard Woods Park that also plays a role in the film.

The Noelles, of course, popped by Trinity United Methodist and even took time to “hide” in the nativity — just like Kevin.

Linday Noelle, also known as Make It Fun Mom, took this photo of her children in the church’s creche.

“My kids got a kick out of having to hide like that,” said Noelle, who added she also found more holiday fun in the area, like Pit & Tap’s Deck the Halls pop-up and the Christmas on Cleveland decorations at 1200 Cleveland St.

Though Jacoby was a Village official (village president beginning in 1989) when “Home Alone” filmed at Trinity United, he does not recall any unusual commotion around the event.

“Usually, they wouldn’t even tell us the name of the film just a little about it. It probably was like “A film about a kid who gets left home over Christmas,'” he said. “Nobody knew that this was going to turn into one of the blockbusters of the century. It attracted no more interest than any of the others.”

Jacoby mentioned other major motion pictures filmed in Wilmette “Ordinary People,” “Risky Business” and “Uncle Buck,” to name a few.

He also couldn’t recall why Trinity was chosen as a film site, but he had a good guess:

“I’m speculating, but it’s the most beautiful church in the village,” he said.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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