Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Pilgrim Baptist Church - Kehilah Anshe Ma'ariv Synagogue
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Pilgrim Baptist Church - Kehilah Anshe Ma'ariv Synagogue (1891) Adler & Sullivan, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

On January 6, 2006 a raging fire gutted the interior of the Pilgrim Baptist Church, another loss in a long line of Adler & Sullivan buildings reduced to rubble. The former synagogue turned church, had been standing on the corner of 33rd and Indiana for 115 years when a roofer's torch apparently sparked the blazing inferno. The building was finally getting a new roof in an effort to help stop water from seeping into the interior, which was destroying Sullivan's exquisite interior ornamentation.

  [Pilgrim Baptist Church - Kehilah Anshe Ma'ariv Synagogue, 3301 S. Indiana Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1890, Dankmar Adler was asked to design a new synagogue building for the members of the Kehilah Anshe Ma'ariv congregation. Adler's father had served as the congregation's rabbi from the time of the family's arrival in Chicago in 1861 until Leibman Adler's retirement in 1882. The building followed close on the heels of Adler and Sullivan's stunning architectural achievement, 1889 Auditorium Building. Capped by a towering pyramidal roof, the 4-walls of the rough-huned limestone contained a few of Louis Sullivan's signature floral inspired panels on the exterior, but it was the interior sanctuary that exploded in Sullivan's florid motifs, accented in gold.

  [Pilgrim Baptist Church - Kehilah Anshe Ma'ariv Synagogue, National register of Historic Places, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

By the 1920s the neighborhood had changed and the synagogue now sat near the heart of Chicago's thriving African American community known then as the Black Belt. In 1921 the members of the 5-year-old Pilgrim Baptist Church purchased the building and began to worship in what became one of the largest African American congregations in the city. From 1926 until the 1950s, under pastor Rev. Junius C. Austin, Pilgrim Baptist could claim an active membership of over 5,000 members, often swelling to thousands more. In 1932, Thomas A. Dorsey became music director, and gospel music was born. Dorsey, once Ma Rainey's piano accompanist, combined the tempo of the blues with the resonance of traditional spirituals, to create a new harmonious sound. And it was under Dorsey's tutelage that Clara Ward, Roberta Martin and Mahalia Jackson created a rhapsody of musical vibrations that made them, and gospel, world famous.
Once the fire was put out, there was nothing left but 4 walls, smoldering debris and hope that the building would rise again. Last week, the church announced the beginnings of a $3 million campaign to raise a roof over the open space and to start work on raising funds for a 4-phase project to rebuild the structure, which will take an estimated $30 million to complete.

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