Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Black Metropolis - Bronzeville Historic District - I

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The Black Metropolis District is a theme district, with no geographical boundaries.. It consists of 9 structures that have designated as Chicago Landmark on September 9, 1998.. Of these eight are individual buildings and one is a public monument. These properties are the tangible remains of what was once a booming "city-within-a-city", created in the early part of the 20th century, by the African-American community, which came to be known as the "Black Metropolis".

Location: Although it is maintained that the Black Metropolis District, is a theme district and does not have any geographical boundaries, one can easily locate all these nine structures within a well-defined area in the Near South Side of Chicago, confined between.. S Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Dr [on the east], S State Street [on the west] and E 31st Street [on the north] and E 37th Street [on the south]..

The nine structures, each designated a Chicago Landmark on September 9, 1998.. forming the Black Metropolis District, are..
# Overton Hygienic Building..
# Chicago Bee Building..
# Chicago Defender Building..
# Wabash Avenue YMCA..
# Unity Hall ..
# Supreme Life Building ...
# Sunset Cafe..
# Eighth Regiment Armory..
# Victory Monument..

The Black community grew during the Great Migration, especially during the period 1910-1920... However the black communities were not assimilated into the city-at-large, but were concentrated into small pockets throughout the city, the largest settlement being in the Near South Side. This was mainly because there were restrictions [unofficial] from renting and buying properties outside of the "Black Belt". By 1920, the Black Metropolis was firmly established. As the community grew, there emerged black-supported religious, social, economic and political organizations.. These above mentioned nine Chicago Landmarks from the Black Metropolis District are symbols of the growth of the community and their religious, economic, political and social institutions..

In 1908, Chicago's first black-owned bank was founded by Jesse Binga at 3633 S State Street.. The first Black owned and financed building was Jordan Building in 1916. It was followed by a spate of black owned-&-financed projects .. One of the most famous being the Overton Hygenic Bldg...

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Overton Hygienic Building
Address: 3619-27 S. State St.
Year Built: 1922-1923
Architect: Z. Erol Smith
Date Designated a Chicago Landmark: September 9, 1998..
Built by noted entrepreneur Anthony Overton as the headquarters for the Overton Hygienic Company, which was one of the nation's foremost producers of African-American cosmetics. The building is a combination of store, offices and manufacturing facilities..

Chicago also emerged as a center of Black Journalism. Some black-owned newspapers are Chicago Whip, Chicago Bee, Broad Axe and Half Century Magazine. One of the most influential was Chicago Defender.. Two buildings that represent this institution of black-journalism are designated as Chicago Landmarks..
- Chicago Bee
- Chicago Defender

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Chicago Bee Building..
Address: 3647-55 S. State St.
Year Built: 1929-1931
Architect: Z. Erol Smith
Date Designated a Chicago Landmark: September 9, 1998..
The building was constructed as the headquarters for the Chicago Bee newspaper, which was founded by noted African-American entrepreneur Anthony Overton..

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Chicago Defender Building..
Address: 3435 S. Indiana Ave.
Year Built: 1899
Architect: Henry L. Newhouse
Date Designated a Chicago Landmark: September 9, 1998..
This former Jewish synagogue was home to the Chicago Defender from 1920 until 1960. Founded by Robert S. Abbott in 1905, the newspaper became nationally known for its outspoken editorial policies on behalf of civil rights issues. The "Great Migration" of the early-20th century was largely initiated by Defender editorials urging African-Americans to leave the poverty of the South for new opportunities in the North. It is one of nine structures in the Black Metropolis-Bronzeville Historic District.

Churches played an important role in the development of Black Metropolis..
- Olivet Baptist Church
- Pilgrim Baptist Church
- Wabash Avenue YMCA

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Wabash Avenue YMCA..
Address: 3763 S. Wabash Ave.
Year Built: 1911-1913
Architect: Robert C. Berlin
Date Designated a Chicago Landmark: September 9, 1998..
An important center of community life, this Young Men's Christian Association facility also provided housing and job training for new arrivals from the South during the "Great Migration" of African-Americans in the first decades of the 20th century..

As the black community grew, so did their political strength.. A name stands out is of Oscar de Priest. he became the city's first alderman in 1915. In 1928, he became the first black from the North to be elected to a seat in US House of Representatives. He was closely associated with the People Movement Club, which had it's headquarters in the Unity Hall..

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Unity Hall..
Address: 3140 S. Indiana Ave.
Year Built: 1887
Architect: Laban B. Dixon
Date Designated a Chicago Landmark: September 9, 1998
Originally built as the Lakeside Club, a Jewish social organization, this structure was renamed in 1917 when it became the headquarters of the Peoples Movement Club, a political organization headed by Oscar Stanton DePriest (1871-1951), the first African-American elected to the City Council and the first northern black elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. The building is a rare surviving 19th-century clubhouse structure, and is an excellent example of the type of architecture found in the community in the 1880's. Since the 1950's, it has been occupied by religious institutions..

This post includes 5 of the 9 structures,
the remaining 4 are in the post..
Black Metropolis Distict-II .. click here

Also check out..
Black Metropolis Distict-III [Nine structures and beyond]..

* The name Bronzeville was first used in 1930, by James J. Gentry, a local theater editor for the Chicago Bee publication. It refers to the brown skin color of African-Americans, who predominated that area. It has become common usage throughout the decades..


scorpiogirl39 said...

I lived the 1st 5 or 6 years of my life in "Bronzeville". What kind of "theme" is being black and having to be designated a certain place to live?! I find that term kind of offensive. The Douglas/ Grand Blvd neighborhood is where Most Blacks lived, rich or poor, because they HAD TO. By the late 1960's and early 70's there were over 60,000 people living in the area.

Anonymous said...