A Special 11th Designation
A collective wave of remorse was felt in January, when live footage of a
devastating fire on this site aired on local and national media outlets.
Sparked by a roofer’s torch, the fire completely destroyed the building’s
ornate interior and wood-frame roof. Originally constructed in 1891 as a
Jewish synagogue for Kehilath Anshe Ma’ariv, this was a rare example of
ecclesiastical design by Dankmar Adler and Louis H. Sullivan.
Baptist acquired the building in 1922, the church quickly became a
spiritual home to African-Americans who came to Chicago during the Great
Migration of the 1920s and 30s. The church also is widely regarded as the
birthplace of gospel music. Recent structural reports have confirmed that
the building’s surviving four walls are stable. However, the question of
whether—and how—to restore the building remains a difficult financial and
philosophical preservation challenges.