Friday, January 06, 2006

Adler & Sullivan Historic Church Destroyed by Fire Today: Interior's Predicted a Total Loss (Well, yeah, See Photo)

A fire ravaged the historic Pilgrim Baptist Church late this afternoon. It was built in 1890 by famed architectural team Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler. The church was located on the city's south side at 3301 South Indiana Avenue. The cause right now is unknown but the roof was being repaired earlier today, according to the Chicago Tribune and other sources. The Trib also says that no injuries have been reported.

The building is a Chicago Landmark.

From the Chicago Landmark website:

"The decorative and planning skills of architect Louis H. Sullivan, along with the engineering abilities of Dankmar Adler, are embodied in the strong masonry forms of this building, which is embellished with terra-cotta panels of intricate foliage designs. The dramatic interior of the church contains similar ornament.

Built as Kehilath Anshe Ma' ariv synagogue, the building has housed the Pilgrim Baptist Church since 1922. During the 1930s, this congregation and its longtime music director, Thomas A. Dorsey, were instrumental in the development of gospel music. Among those who sang here were: Mahalia Jackson, Sallie Martin, James Cleveland, and the Edwin Hawkins Singers."

According to the AIA Guide to Chicago, Adler's father had been rabbi of the congregation who commissioned the synagogue. In 1986, architect John Vinci led a restoration of the interior.

I never saw this church, but I'm sure that a lot of people are hurting right now -- the congregation for sure and probably John Vinci and staff as well. If I didn't stay up all night a few days ago with CNN and the miners' families, I might have gotten upset about this, too.

It does make my stomach ache, though, to see the fire blazing behind those tell-tale Sullivan arches. The AIA Guide called the interior "a thrilling worship space." What a shame.

Chicago Sun-Times coverage here.

Oral history of John Vinci with lots of discussion of restoring Sullivan, but not this project (that I could find) here.

Photo from NBC5 News Website.


The Inside Dope said...

Another tidbit which may grab more people's attention to this great loss is that this church, along with the Triple Rock Baptist church, was used as a location in the Blues Brother's movie.
More details here.

Jennifer said...

Hey what a honor to have the Straight Dope stop by and give us some straight dope on the Blues Brothers! Thank you so much. Please do visit again.

Michael Allen said...

What a tragedy!

Like you, I never visited the building. In fact, it was the only Chicago Sullivan building that I never saw in person! I have an acquaintance of mine who told me the same thing over the weekend, too.

I now feel like moving forward with a long-planned road trip to all of Sullivan's small-town bank and commercial buildings!

Hopefully, the facades of Pilgrim Baptist can be stabilized and retained no matter what happens.

Jennifer said...

Oh I know. I've got to get out and see more, too. I'm so sorry I didn't experience or see this "thrilling worship space." thanks again for stopping by --jr