The Making of a Darbe Mehr



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The Making of a Darbe Mehr
(Adapted from Inauguration Program - September 3 & 4, 1983)

The inauguration of the Arbab Rustam Guiv Darbe Mehr – Zoroastrian Center of Chicago on September 3 and 4, 1983, is a proud moment in the history of Zoroastrians in North America. On that day, the Chicago center joins Zoroastrian centers in New York, Toronto and Los Angeles as monuments to the faith and dedication of the Zoroastrian people and their determination to preserve and perpetuate the great faith of Zarathustra on the continent. It was through the vision and foresight of Arbab Rustam Guiv, that all four centers were made possible. 

The Chicago center is the first on this continent to be designed and built specially for that purpose. With a zealous band of workers under the leadership of President Rohinton M. Rivetna, this tiny community of 100 families has worked against tremendous odds to raise funds and build the 6,000 sq. ft. facility comprising of a Prayer hall, Assembly hall, and Library/Learning center at a cost of $55,000 for the land and $190,000 for the building construction. 

Ever since the first Zoroastrians settled in Chicago over 30 years ago, they have dreamed of building a place of worship. In 1980 the great philanthropist Arbab Rustam Guiv came forward with an offer of $150,000. The Chicago community immediately started a massive fund raising effort to supplement this generous offer and with donations from around the world, purchased a two-acre property in suburban Hinsdale, 20 miles southwest of downtown Chicago. During this time, Arbab Guiv passed away and the Rustom Guiv Trust ran into difficulties releasing the funds, some of which were tied up in a real estate property in Mettawa, Illinois. (This 20-acre property had been purchased by Arbab Guiv in a 1978 for a center in Chicago but had laid unused due to lack of construction funds). The Chicago community came forward, formed a partnership, the “Parsi Partners,” and purchased 5 acres of the Mettawa property from the Trust for $60,000. With the proceeds of this sale augmenting the Trust funds, the Trust was able to turn over $150,000 to ZAC. Through various other project including the Zubin Mehta Banquet, the ZAC raised enough funds to start the construction. 

On June 13, 1982, in a simple but touching ceremony, ground was broken for the Darbe Mehr construction – a first on this continent.  Several alternative architectural plans were reviewed and a building permit approved. The land was cleared of trees, surveyed, concrete foundation poured, well and sceptic laid, underground heating, plumbing and electrical work performed, and the erection of the building shell proceeded smoothly. A major setback occurred in September 1982, when during the roof construction, one of the 50 ft. trusses fell, bringing down 30 others. In the accident, a carpenter was injured and liability suits have followed. With the grace of Ahura Mazda, the project quickly picked up again, with the installation of the roof, the brick masonry walls and floor slabs. The doors, windows, siding, insulation, drywall, floor tiling, electrical, heating and alarm system were installed. The exterior site grading, landscaping and parking lot were completed by July 1983. 

Nothing of course happened in the smooth chronology that this account may convey. Events meshed into one another, plans were revised a dozen times, there were times when grave doubts were expressed, when deep despair was felt, when the project seemed interminable. But one of those storms arose this Darbe Mehr, as testimony to the spirit of the Zoroastrian people. 

The Darbe Mehr is dedicated to the first generation of American Zoroastrians, so that they may carry the torch of the ancient Zoroastrian faith for future generations in North America.