“Neighbors and parishioners of a historic Bronzeville church that once hosted luminaries including Martin Luther King Jr. and former President Jimmy Carter — and where mourners once said farewell to legendary singer Sam Cooke — are concerned about the building’s future.
“The worry began when dumpsters recently cropped up outside the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church at 4134 S. Indiana Ave. And though the actual ownership of the building has proved hard to pin down, nearby residents are now seeking the help of Preservation Chicago to prevent what they fear could be demolition of a building closely connected with the South Side’s cultural history.
“Sajdah Wendy Muhammad, a founding member of the Coalition of Black House Museums, said Evans reached out to her expressing concern about the fate of the church roughly three weeks ago. The organization then contacted Preservation Chicago to see about getting the church designated for landmark status.
“‘We don’t understand how that happened. That’s what’s not clear to us,’ said Mary Lu Seidel, director of community engagement at Preservation Chicago. ‘In 2015, this nonprofit made a loan, allegedly, to the church, but (the signees) don’t appear to be people who were on the church board. (Eagle Ledge Foundation) made a loan to two people who said they were working on behalf of the church, but we don’t see the people who have been affiliated with the church.’
“The Chicago Department of Buildings website shows that the last inspection date for the property was Oct. 31, 2017, a report that cited several building code violations.
“‘Preservation Chicago is working with (Muhammad) and (Evans) and the community here to generate a landmark designation report, at least a historical document, which the city could turn into a report or accept our documentation,’ said Miller.
“Supporters gathered outside the property sharing personal stories about Tabernacle as well as notable figures who grew up worshipping there. ‘We’ve had several people that have been successful, really successful, come out of this church,’ said The Rev. John Wesley Moore, a former associate minister at the church.
“Moore rattled off a list of names including Eddie Thomas, founder of Curtom Records, along with legendary singer Curtis Mayfield, who previously sang in the choir at Tabernacle. The church was the site of the funeral for Sam Cooke, the acclaimed ‘King of Soul,’ in 1965. In 2022, singer Smokey Robinson delivered the eulogy for a former reverend of the church, Reginald Burke, who worked as Robinson’s pianist for a number of years.
“Famous visitors ranged from nationally celebrated figures, like Martin Luther King Jr. and former President Jimmy Carter, to local names, like Chicago radio legend AC Green and former Cook County Board of Corrections President Harold Bailey. Supporters of Tabernacle stressed the importance of the church in Chicago’s history.” (Jay, Crain’s Chicago Business, 8/21/23)
- Fearing demolition, preservationists push to make Bronzeville church a landmark, Corli Jay, Crain’s Chicago Business, 8/21/23
- Preservationists, Congregants Race To Save Historic Bronzeville Church In Foreclosure; Current and former members have joined forces with the Coalition of Black House Museums and Preservation Chicago to get landmark status for the building as one church leader fights for ownership, Jamie Nesbitt Golden, Block Club Chicago, 8/22/23
- Bronzeville’s Historic Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church For Sale As Preservationists Race To Landmark It; A group led by current parishioners and Preservation Chicago plan to launch a petition to get the house of worship landmarked as it hits the market for $799,000, Jamie Nesbitt Golden, Block Club Chicago, 9/21/23
- After neighbors pull for landmark status, historic Bronzeville church up for sale, Corli Jay, Crain’s Chicago Business, 9/21/23
- Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, 4130 S Indiana Avenue Sale Listing