The Making of a Darbe Mehr
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
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
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.