THREATENED: All of Mankind Mural / Stranger’s Home Missionary Baptist Church, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered

All of Mankind Mural by William Walker (1972) at Stranger’s Home Missionary Baptist Church, 1901, John Neal Tilton, 617 W. Evergreen Avenue, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. Photo credit: Debbie Mercer
All of Mankind Mural by William Walker (1972) at Stranger’s Home Missionary Baptist Church, 1901, John Neal Tilton, 617 W. Evergreen Avenue, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. Photo credit: Debbie Mercer
All of Mankind Mural by William Walker (1972) at Stranger’s Home Missionary Baptist Church, 1901, John Neal Tilton, 617 W. Evergreen Avenue, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. Photo Credit: Chicago Public Art Group
All of Mankind Mural by William Walker (1972) at Stranger’s Home Missionary Baptist Church, 1901, John Neal Tilton, 617 W. Evergreen Avenue, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. Photo Credit: Save All of Mankind / Art House Coalition / Cabrini Art House Project
All of Mankind Mural by William Walker (1972) at Stranger’s Home Missionary Baptist Church, 1901, John Neal Tilton, 617 W. Evergreen Avenue, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. Photo Credit: Save All of Mankind / Art House Coalition / Cabrini Art House Project
Interior Murals by William Walker (1972) at Stranger’s Home Missionary Baptist Church, 1901, John Neal Tilton, 617 W. Evergreen Avenue, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. Photo Credit: Jeff Heubner
Interior Murals by William Walker (1972) at Stranger’s Home Missionary Baptist Church, 1901, John Neal Tilton, 617 W. Evergreen Avenue, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. Photo Credit: Jeff Heubner

All of Mankind Mural/Stranger’s Home Missionary Baptist Church

Murals

Address: 617 W. Evergreen Street

Artist: William Walker

Year: 1971-1974
Style: Black Arts Movement

Church

Address: 617 W. Evergreen

Architect/Artist: John Neal Tilton
Year: 1901

Style: Gothic Revival

Overview
Once surrounded by the towers of the Cabrini-Green Homes, the Stranger’s Home Missionary Baptist Church (formerly San Marcello Mission Church) was a center of religious life for Italian immigrants and later Black families on the Near North Side beginning in 1901. In 1971, a progressive priest commissioned Chicago artist William Walker to adorn the church with a series of murals. The pieces, collectively titled All of Mankind, explored the beauty and struggle of Black America and envisioned a world united. The piece was widely regarded as one of Walker’s masterpieces and became a symbol of Cabrini-Green.

The church has remained standing even as Cabrini-Green was demolished by 2011, but Walker’s murals were completely whitewashed by 2016. However, it is believed that these works are salvageable. The Cabrini Art House Project and a coalition of community organizations including the art conservators and community residents has recently pursued the purchase and restoration of the church and its murals. They are seeking funding and city support to achieve this goal with the hopes that the site can become a center for the Cabrini-Green neighborhood and that Chicagoans can once again appreciate Walker’s landmark work in person.

Threat
The whitewashing of All of Mankind has obscured Walker’s work, but it is believed the murals still exist underneath layers of paint. A coalition of local community organizations, art conservators, neighborhood residents, as well as the Chicago Public Arts Group has in recent years pursued fundraising opportunities to both purchase the church and restore Walker’s murals. Limited access to the site has made it difficult to ascertain the murals’ condition but initial assessments indicate it may be possible to restore them. The coalition is not only interested in restoration of the murals, but also redevelopment of the property into a center that supports the local community and remaining Cabrini-Green residents.

The current owner has not listed the property for sale, but has reportedly signaled that he is open to offers. The church structure constitutes the full extent of the property; any surrounding land is owned by the Chicago Housing Authority, making independent redevelopment of the property much more difficult. As CHA continues to sell off parcels of the former Cabrini-Green Homes, it is likely that the building will one day be targeted for demolition.

Recommendations
Thanks to the efforts of the Cabrini Art House Project and this dedicated coalition, preservation and restoration of All of Mankind and Stranger’s Home Missionary Baptist Church is feasible—only a few missing pieces remain. Increased funding will be crucial to this effort. The coalition is seeking funds or grants that will facilitate the site’s acquisition and the murals’ assessment and restoration. The site touches on many important themes—Black history, mural art, and public housing foremost among them—that could certainly attract funding from preservation-, art-, and history-focused organizations.

However, collaboration with the City of Chicago will be necessary during this process. The involvement of various agencies, including CHA and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) will be required to ensure redevelopment is provided every resource needed to succeed, including potential incorporation with future developments on adjacent CHA-owned land. Guided by this devoted coalition and with the aid of the city, the restoration of this church and its murals could become a moment of rebirth and resilience for a community heavily affected by demolition, disinvestment, and the traumas of urban renewal.

All of Mankind Mural/Stranger’s Home Missionary Baptist Church, a Preservation Chicago 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered Chapter

Hyde Park Historical Society celebrates life and legacy of muralist William Walker, Max Blaisdell, Hyde Park Herald, 2/19/24

CabriniArtHouse.com

 

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