Crafting Sacred Spaces in Illinois

Diversified contractor Schramm Construction has found solid niches in church construction and the industrial sector

The stained glass that Schramm Construction installed in the St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Church in Sugar Grove, IL, came all the way from a fabricator in California (photo: McShane Fleming Studios).
Schramm won the 20,000-square-foot St. Katharine project because of community ties and better budgeting (photo: McShane Fleming Studios).
Schramm won the 20,000-square-foot St. Katharine project because of community ties and better budgeting (photo: McShane Fleming Studios).

When Fred Schramm, the owner of Schramm Construction Corporation, stood by to watch the dedication ceremony for the St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Church in December of 2012, he could not help but feel that this was a project that completely represented what his company is all about. “I knew it was the right job for us because I could see how pleased the parishioners were and how happy they were to have a church home,” he recalls. “They had been worshipping in a gymnasium. This was a new place for them in the community that will be there for a long, long time. It’s the kind of work that impacts people’s lives.”

Schramm Construction, which Schramm founded 20 years ago, had first jumped on the St. Katharine project because of its connection with some of the church’s parishioners and the project architect. They knew not only of the company’s honorable reputation but also its knack for budget-concise projects. After multiple plan revisions, the church had found itself over budget and looking for some direction. Schramm and his team were able to step in, outbidding two other firms and offering St. Katharine its expertise as well as that of its quality subcontractors.

The steeples of the church are  72 and 58 feet tall, and they were crafted on the ground on-site by a custom carpenter.
The steeples of the church are 72 and 58 feet tall, and they were crafted on the ground on-site by a custom carpenter.

The completed facility is more than 20,000 square feet and includes a 350-seat chapel, administrative wings, classrooms, and a kitchen facility to accommodate the church’s growing congregation. The space has already become a home for more than 550 registered families since the project began three and a half years ago. There are two steeples atop the structure, and the largest one, including towers, measures approximately 72 feet and weighs about 40 tons; the smaller of the steeples is 58 feet tall and weighs about 30 tons. Each was designed and constructed on the ground at the site by a custom carpenter contractor.

At the time of the St. Katharine project, Schramm Construction was already well versed in church construction. Its list of previously completed religious facilities ranged from traditional to contemporary churches with amenities such as bridal suites and coffee bars. Even Schramm’s own church, Christ Community Church, had previously hired his company for the addition of a classroom wing. Attention to detail and the ability to stay within time and budget constraints led to follow-up projects at the church, including the 2,000-seat Worship Auditorium, the KidsWorld Childrens Ministry wing, and the Hub Youth Commons wing, which is used by teens.

Photo: McShane Fleming StudiosWhen Schramm Construction first launched, its focus was primarily carpentry. Schramm had been working in construction since the age of 18, starting out as a carpenter for his uncle. When he committed to the “dream he always had” of starting his own construction firm, the company mainly focused on commercial-interior trim. From there, though, its growing reputation opened new doors to a variety of commercial, industrial, religious, hospitality, and institutional jobs.

“We work on projects from design development—whether that starts with a brainstorming process or merely a drawing on the back of a napkin—all the way through the first year of post-construction warranties,” Schramm says. “We truly become a partner to the client throughout the entire process.”

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Schramm Construction did a fair number of high-end commercial construction projects, most notably the Millennium Carillon in Naperville, Illinois, and repeat projects at the renowned Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois. In addition, the company found a specialized niche in clubhouses and swimming pools for residential developers. When the housing market took a nosedive, though, Schramm and his business were able to stay afloat by focusing on religious facilities and turning to the industrial sector. Over the years, the company has worked on a number of churches throughout northern Illinois, including both ground-up constructions and renovations.

It’s a unique line of work because Schramm Construction will often be working with a community-operated committee that’s usually restricted to a tight budget. For Schramm himself, though, it’s exactly the kind of work that’s the most meaningful since it leads to helping others. Similarly, Schramm and his wife, Annette, have spent 10 years working for an organization in Haiti, raising money for, among other things, a 35-bed hospital that miraculously withstood the devastating 2010 earthquake and has since been named one of the top eight hospitals in the relief efforts.

It is this community-oriented, give-back mentality that drives Schramm Construction. “We promise our clients we will build with honesty and integrity,” Schramm says. “Their project is our project.”

Photos: McShane Fleming Studio