WIN: Ebony Test Kitchen Heading to Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture

“The city’s iconic Ebony test kitchen, which developed some of the magazine’s popular recipes in African American cuisine, has found a permanent home in Washington, D.C.

“The slice of Chicago history is headed to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., where it will be a part of the permanent collection, the museum announced Tuesday.

“Landmarks Illinois, which acquired the kitchen in 2018, saving it from demolition, donated it to the museum. The kitchen will hopefully be on display in the museum next year, the organization said, but in the meantime it will undergo conservation work.

“The 26-by-13-foot Ebony test kitchen was built in 1972 and was previously housed on the 10th floor of the Johnson Publishing Co. building at 820 S. Michigan Ave.

“The Johnson building was designed by John Warren Moutoussamy, who became the first Black architect to design a building on Michigan Avenue when it opened in 1971. Johnson Publishing Co., with its Ebony and Jet magazines, inspired countless Black people around the world.

“After the Johnson Publishing Co. building was sold in 2010, the threat of demolition loomed as developers had plans to convert it for residential use. But thanks to a grassroots effort, the building was designated a Chicago landmark in 2017 and saved.

“However, the designation didn’t protect its interior, and the kitchen was still at risk of being lost. In 2018, Landmarks Illinois purchased the kitchen for $1 from the developer after receiving a tip from Chicago architecture critic Lee Bey, now a Sun-Times editorial board member. The kitchen was carefully removed piece by piece, restored and put in storage.

“The space was designed by Palm Springs-based interior designers William Raiser and Arthur Elrod of Arthur Elrod Associates, according to the Smithsonian. The visual aesthetic of the test kitchen has been described as ‘Afrocentric modernism,’ ‘psychedelic’ and ‘bold.’ (Camarillo, Chicago Sun-Times, 6/6/23)


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