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Remembering - and Renewing - History

By Shannon in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 6, 2007 9:00PM

Guess what happened one year ago today? We forgive you if it doesn't come immediately off the top of your head; after all, we may be a little biased. Give up? It's the one-year anniversary of the (near) death of Pilgrim Baptist Church.

front archwayThe church, originally a synagogue, was built by Adler & Sullivan in 1890. In 1922, in order to better serve its Bronzeville constituency, the mighty Romanesque building became the home for the Pilgrim Baptist Church. Renowned blues singer Tommy Dorsey became its choral director in 1932, effectively creating the birth of Gospel music. As the years passed, the area fell into a decline, but lately it's been going through a renewal. PBC had even raised a good bit of money for renovation. Then, disaster struck on January 6, 2006, as one of those renovators sparked a fire from a blowtorch. The blaze caused the pyramidal roof to collapse and took out the entirety of PBC's marvelous insides. Parishioners and preservationists alike were devastated.

All is not lost, however. CBS2 reports that Pilgrim Baptist's congregation is determined to rebuild the historic church and have been interviewing architects in order to do so. For the moment, huge metal scaffolding holds up the outside walls, which were deemed to still be structurally sound. So far, $400,000 in private donations has been made towards the rebuilding, along with a promise of a $500,000 match from the Pritzker Family Foundation, a fact we find pretty cool. No doubt it's going to take much more than that, but it's a good start to getting this building back to the former splendor in which it stood.

Image courtesy of The New No. 2.