WIN: Preservation Chicago Supports African American Cultural Heritage Grant for Mt. Pisgah Church, Chicago’s Most Recently Designated Chicago Landmark

Preservation Chicago strongly supported Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church throughout the progress of becoming a Designated Chicago Landmark. The final approval by Chicago City Council occured on April 24, 2020. Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church/Sinai Temple, located at 4600 S. Martin Luther King Drive in Bronzeville, was designed by Alfred Samuel Alschuler in 1912.

“‘We very much support this designation as Chicago landmark. This is an amazing building that’s elegant and monumental with finely crafted materials and it really anchors this corner at 46th and King Drive,’ said Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago. ‘Much of Alschuler’s original architecture remains, including the six Ionic limestone columns framing the main entrance and a four-story sanctuary with a barrel vault ceiling, a central skylight, stained glass windows, and many Stars of David.” (Smith, 11/11/19)

Letter from Preservation Chicago to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in support of the Mount Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church, 4600-4628 S. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Chicago, Illinois being awarded a grant from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.

“We support the recommendation and consideration of Mount Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church as a candidate and recipient for the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund offered by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“This prominent religious building, designed by one of Chicago’s leading architects – Alfred Alschuler – has a rich cultural history and is tied to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1967, Dr. King gave his “Why Jesus Called Man a Fool” sermon at Mt. Pisgah during the National Baptist Convention. Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church would be a fine recipient of and African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“The building is now officially recognized as a Chicago Landmark, reflecting its importance to the Bronzeville community, the City of Chicago and the nation.

“The Mount Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church Building was designed by noted architect Alfred Alschuler in 1912 and constructed for the Chicago Sinai Congregation as the new Chicago Sinai Temple. This elegant, monumental, finely crafted limestone Classical-Revival style building was built on a grand scale and anchors the corner of 46th Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. The structure has three principal elevations, sheathed in dressed limestone, with pairs of tall Ionic-order columns of stone. The adjoining Mount Pisgah Center is also of fine quality and craftsmanship, symmetrical design and constructed of Roman brick and stone with large arched windows, extending upward from grade level to the second floor. Both are magnificent structures of the highest caliber with spectacular interior spaces and finishes.

“Architect Alfred Alschuler was born in Chicago in 1876 and attended the Armour Institute of Technology, graduating in 1899. He worked for Dankmar Adler (formerly with Adler & Sullivan Architects) for five years before joining Samuel Treat and others. Alschuler is also known for designing and constructing many legacy buildings and embracing reinforced concrete construction methods. His work includes many diverse projects, ranging from industrial buildings and factories, to retail stores, commercial office buildings and synagogues. Several of these structures are designated Chicago Landmarks, including the London Guarantee & Accident Building, now known as the London House Hotel, the Florsheim Shoe Factory and KAM Isaiah Israel Temple. Other notable projects by Alschuler include the Brach’s Candy Factory Complex on Chicago’s West Side (demolished), Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago’s Lake View Community, the Michigan-Ohio Building (demolished), Chicago Printed String Company Building, and the 17-story Chicago Mercantile Exchange Building of 1927. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange Building was part of a huge but unsuccessful preservation effort of Preservation Chicago.

“From 1912 to the 1940s, the Sinai Temple/Mount Pisgah Church building served a very prominent German-Jewish congregation in the Grand Boulevard-Douglas community, which was later known as Bronzeville. In the 1940s, the congregation – one of Chicago’s oldest reform synagogues founded in 1861 – moved to the Hyde Park community.

“In 1961, Mount Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church moved to this former synagogue building and complex, which later had long associations with Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and hosted Dr. King in the 1960s. The building is therefore part of the rich Civil Rights history linked to Chicago, the African American community and the nation. Following Dr. King’s assassination, South Parkway was renamed in his honor—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

“We applaud the Mount Pisgah Church, its pastor, leadership and congregation for their long-term stewardship of the building for almost 60 years and their dedication and commitment to the community to which they serve, while also preserving its history and legacy for the future. The congregation has a wonderful complex of buildings and spaces and is committed to a comprehensive restoration plan.

“We offer our highest recommendation for the consideration of Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church for the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund of The National Trust for Historic Preservation.”

Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church/Sinai Temple Final Landmark Designation Report. Chicago Department of Planning and Development

A historic church in Bronzeville with civil rights legacy could get landmark protection; Martin Luther King Jr. gave a sermon at the neoclassical Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, Ryan Smith, Curbed Chicago, 11/11/19

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