The Commission on Chicago Landmarks has approved an Adopt-A-Landmark grant for Pilgrim Baptist Church in Bronzeville. Located at 3301 S Indiana Avenue, the church is sited at the intersection of S Indiana Avenue and E 33rd Street. Originally built as a synagogue by Adler & Sullivan in 1891, the church was destroyed by fire in 2006, with only the stone exterior walls remaining. The structure was designated as a Chicago landmark in 1981.
In August 2020, a storm with high winds knocked over the southern brick wall of the building. Pilgrim Baptist Church is requesting grant assistance to fund the effort to clean up the debris and stabilize the walls for the further redevelopment plans.
The retainment of the exterior walls is integral to further redevelopment plans. The Commission on Chicago Landmarks had previously determined that the walls are historic to the building and have sufficient character in themselves to retain the historic character of the entire building. The general mass, fenestration, and exterior detailing portrays Louis Sullivan’s mastery of scale and proportion.
The western and northern facades are multi-wythe masonry walls with limestone cladding backed with common brick. These walls were braced with a metal system after the fire. The southern and eastern walls are multi-wythe brick walls consisting of red face brick with common brick behind.
The scope of work for the project includes multiple tasks. The first will be to sift through the fallen brick to salvage as much as possible of the red face brick. This will be stored and used as part of the redevelopment. Any remaining debris will be removed and the site will be secured. The next effort will be to remove areas of loose brick on the remaining portion of the southern and eastern walls.
The tops of the remaining walls will be covered with a waterproof covering to avoid water penetration. The further evaluation of the remaining walls will be done to ensure stability. The northern and western walls were minimally damaged during the windstorm. The limestone arches along the northern elevation will be stabilized and repaired.
The landmark grant will provide $216,960 which will cover the entire cost of the stabilization project.
Pilgrim Baptist Church is working on plans to redevelop the church, with a main goal of establishing a National Museum of Gospel Music. According to a representative for the church, fundraising and pre-development activity is underway. A previous design by Dirk Lohan is no longer viable and Farr Associates is the new architect for the project.
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