Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Black Metropolis - Bronzeville Historic District - III

Some queries..
The nine structures and beyond..
in the Black Metropolis- Bronzeville District..
For the nine structures, I'm talking about, click here..

As I was researching on the Black Metropolis-Bronzeville Historic District, I have been left with a few questions.. One in particular I would like to bring out, relates to the use of language on the Chicago Landmarks website, [and also on the plaques on the site]..

I don't understand why has it been written..
These nine structures are what remain of the "Metropolis," one of the nation's most significant landmarks of African-American urban history...???
And why the plaques on the site read..
It is one of nine structures in the Black Metropolis-Bronzeville Historic District..???

When clearly these are not the only structures..
There are more than nine structures.. that have significant contribution in the African-American urban history, and are in the very same area, like..
- Pilgrim Baptist Church..
- Ida B Wells Barnett House ..

And some are in the vicinity..
- Quinn Chapel..
- Chess Record Office & Studio..
- The Illinois Automobile Club bldg.. from which the newspaper "Chicago Defender" operated between 1950-2006..

Each one of these has also been designated as Chicago Landmark.. And..
Each one of these structures are symbolic of the institutions that contributed to the growth of the African-American community and traces their rising influence in the religious-social-economic-&-political scene, specially during the period of The Great Migration..

While each of the above mentioned structures have close association with the African-American community.. There are other Chicago Landmarks in the same area, that have more to do with architecture..
- Roloson Houses ..
- Calumet, Giles and Prairie District..

Coming back to the question of why it has been written..
These nine structures are what remain of the "Metropolis"..???
The only answer I could find is, that these nine structures were designated as Chicago Landmarks on the same day.. Sep 9, 1998!!
But that is not a good enough answer!
Quite frankly, in the particular case, I find the official website misleading..
And I have seen people repeating verbatim, as these nine structures remain.. implying that these are the only nine structures symbolic of the institutions that contributed to the rising strength of African American community during the Great Migration.. [Which is so not true/accurate]..

By narrow definition,
- There are 11 structures, if we include, Pilgrim's Baptist Church and Ida B Wells Barnett House [Both Chicago Landmarks]
- 12 structures, if we include Olivet Baptist Church...[Not a designated landmark]
If we slightly enlarge the area to include the vicinity..
- There are 15 structures, if we include.. Quinn Chapel.. Chess Record Office & Studio... The Illinois Automobile Club bldg.. [All designated Chicago Landmarks].. [And even if I take out Chess Records and Illinois Automobile Club blg, from the list, as they became important institutions in the later phase, during the 1950's.. there are still 13 structures..]

While I am at it,
Despite the fact that no geographical boundaries has been defined while talking about the Black Metropolis-Bronzeville District, conventionally the term Bronzeville refers to a specific area in the Near South Side of Chicago, confined between.. S Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Dr [in the east], S State Street [in the west] and E 31st Street [in the north] and E 37th, some say it is to the 65th Street [in the south]..

If anyone has answers to my questions, or feels the same way as I do, or feels that I'm totally wrong, please feel free comment or write to me.. It doesn't matter if you read this after six months and still want to write. I still get mails on the Motor Row District click here.. which I had written in Sep, 2009.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

You bet!
Then there is Oscar Stanton dePriest House too.
And First Church of Deliverence, made by first African American architects

Barbara K said...

Good questions, Jyoti. The theme of the Black Metropolis National Register of Historic Places designation was commercial and business buildings and political associations, not religious buildings or residences. After they got on the National Register, the City landmarked those 9 structures. Barnett's house was already a landmark, as was Pilgrim Baptist and Quinn. Chess came later. Don't know if Olivet is a landmark at all...?