Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pilgrim Baptist Church

Add caption

Add caption

Pilgrim Baptist Church..
Address: 3301 S. Indiana Ave.
Year Built: 1890-91
Architect: Dankmar Adler & Louis Sullivan
Date Designated a Chicago Landmark: December 18, 1981..

The building was built as a synagogue [Kehilath Anshe Ma'ariv synagogue].. Dankmar Adler was a member, and his father was a rabbi.
[That congregation now continues as K.A.M. Isaiah Israel Temple]... A Baptist congregation moved into the building in 1922, forming the Pilgrim Baptist Church.

Chicago Landmark burned..
On January 6, 2006, the church suffered from a massive fire, which damaged it's architecturally significant interior. Now only the shell remains. And there is little hope of any recovery.

Birthplace of Gospel..
Thomas A Dorsey, known as the Father of Gospel music, was the the choir director at Pilgrim Baptist Church from 1932 to 1970. His most famous song, "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" was introduced here. The song was a favourite of Father Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, help me stand
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn
Through the storm, Through the night
Lead me on to the light
Take my hand, precious lord
Lead me home..

Many famous singers are among those who have sung at the church, including Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Sallie Martin, James Cleveland, and Edwin Hawkins .. Its famous members include Bessie Coleman, the first African American female pilot and the first person of African American descent to hold an international pilot license. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. also delivered some sermons in the church during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

Add caption

Architectural History..
Although best known for its association with gospel music of the early 20th century, the Pilgrim Baptist Church has an important place in architectural history of the city. It was designed by Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan during a period in which Frank Lloyd Wright worked for their firm.

Now, destroyed by the fire, only the shell of the building remains. One can still see the three-story stone facade, although it's tall attic and the steeply hipped roof are destroyed. Behind the steel support, one can see a stepped voussoir arch entrance and arched third story windows. Inside the sanctuary was a soaring wooden ceiling in golden tone. There was a continuous row of Sullivan-designed terra cotta at the base. In the terra cotta and in the stained-glass windows were Jewish iconography which Pilgrim Baptist Church retained, but a large cross was added above the altar.

The architect Dankmar Adler was a self-taught acoustical engineer. This engineering masterpiece from Adler and an equally impressive architectural decoration by his younger partner Sullivan has now been lost forever.

Add caption

Add caption

Add caption

Grant controversy..
The now disgraced and ousted Governor Rod Blagojevich had pledged $1 million to help rebuild the non-church part of the building, administrative offices that housed the church’s school and historic documents. But there were legal complaints filed questioning the constitutionality of the grant. The issue cited was that the state’s constitution does not permit public funding church-run schools. It was alleged that it was impossible to limit the funding to the church’s “secular” functions and the grant was unconstitutional. I dont know what happened with the case, but the grant has been cancelled, citing insufficient funds with the Illinois State.

Pilgrim Baptist Church, is yet another of the Adler & Sullivan’s buildings have been destroyed/ demolished, like the Schiller Theater, the Stock Exchange and earlier buildings such as the Troescher and Ryerson.

Nine Bronzeville Structures and Beyond..
There are many stuctures beyond the nine structures that the Chicago Landmark Commission describes as..
"These nine structures are what remain of the "Metropolis," one of the nation's most significant landmarks of African-American urban history"...
It does not include the Pilgrim Baptist Church..
Although now it's destroyed by the fire, it was not so at the time when the Black Metropolis District was designated on Sep 9, 1998..
For more on the Nine Structures and Beyond.. click here..


Ultra Local Geography said...

Worst yet, the Blago administration mistakenly wrote the $1 million check to a private school renting space from the church. They promptly spent it.

Jyoti said...

Talk about corruption!

Dave said...

I thought you would be good. I didn't know you would be so good. You have walked though the streets that I never knew existed, and I have lived here all my life.
Excellent work Jyoti.