Building Court Orders Pilgrim Baptist Church to Relocate Scaffolding

Ten years after the fire that devastated the highly-significant Adler and Sullivan-designed Pilgrim Baptist Church/KAM Synagogue at 3301 S. Indiana Ave., the limestone and brick walls still stand behind scaffolding. In December, the Building Court ordered that the scaffolding be relocated to the interior of the structure to reopen the public sidewalks and to address the appearance of blight in response to the increasing pressure from the Bronzeville community. Preservation Chicago attended court with the City and community on behalf of the historic structure.

The congregation’s efforts to raise funds necessary for rebuilding have been unsuccessful and there has been growing pressure from the neighborhood for forward movement. The trustees explored options to sell the building, but decided that demolition would be a preferable option. Preservation Chicago and neighborhood preservation partners responded rapidly and the immediate threat of demolition seems to have passed. The trustees of Pilgrim Baptist Church presented new plans for a gospel music museum to the court.

Recognizing the significance of the structure by Adler and Sullivan, even in its diminished post-fire condition, Preservation Chicago has been in active communication with the congregation, the church trustees and representatives from the City to encourage a win-win solution. Last year, Preservation Chicago had proposed an adaptive reuse plan where the church would sell the property to the City, who would adapt the existing historic three-story limestone and brick walls into a small outdoor park and amphitheater geared for gospel music and managed by the Chicago Park District.

Suggested Reading

Preservationists Plead With Pilgrim Baptist To Drop Demolition Plans, DNAinfo, 10/26/16

Birthplace of Gospel” Could Be Torn Down As Church Seeks Demolition Permit, DNAinfo, 10/26/16

[In Transition] Pilgrim Baptist Church: Chicago, Illinois, Preservation Magazine, National Trust for Historic Preservation, 8/25/15

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