WIN: After Seven Year Effort, Greater Union Baptist Church Receives Chicago Landmark Designation

Wood-beamed ceiling and organ at Greater Union Baptist Church, 1888, William Le Baron Jenney, 1956 W. Warren Blvd. Photo credit: Chicago DPD

“A 137-year-old Near West Side church was granted landmark status Wednesday following a City Council vote.

“Greater Union Baptist Church, 1956 W. Warren Blvd., was named a city landmark at the same meeting in which alderpeople also landmarked Promontory Point on the South Side.

“The church has stood since 1886 after members of the Church of the Redeemer congregation established themselves there. The congregation was founded in 1858 by A. C. Barry and comprised mostly Union soldiers and volunteers from the Civil War, taking a staunch abolitionist stance, according to the city’s report on preserving of the church.

“Ownership changed hands in 1928 after a Black Baptist congregation bought it for about $37,400 and turned it into the Greater Union Baptist Church. The church was active during the Civil Rights Movement, staying active in the NAACP and raising funds for victims of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four Black girls in 1963, officials said. Church members also supported a boycott of Chicago Public Schools to oppose racial segregation and overcrowding of schools.

“The building was designed by William Le Baron Jenney, the creator of the skyscraper. It has been their place of worship for the last 94 years. (Arline, Block Club Chicago, 4/19/23)

Preservation Chicago strongly supported the Chicago Landmark Designation for Greater Union Baptist Church. Preservation Chicago has worked with the Greater Union Baptist Congregation, Board of Directors, and both Pastor Dr. McCray and former pastor Willie Morris of Church, for over seven years towards the designation of the church as a Chicago Landmark.

We were grateful to assist the City of Chicago’s Historic Preservation Division of the Department of Planning and Development to capture oral histories of the Pastor and many of the longtime members of the Congregation. We are extremely grateful for this opportunity to assist with the Preliminary and later Final Landmark Recommendation and bring this great honor to this amazing West Side institution.

Special thanks to the DPD-Historic Preservation Staff, Pastor Dr. McCray and the many members of Great Union Baptist Church for their help, commitment, dedication and stewardship towards this important moment in our collective history.


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