Tragedy occured on January 6, 2006, when fire gutted the 115-year-old Pilgrim Baptist Church located at the corner of 33rd and Indiana Avenue. The Adler and Sullivan church, built originally as a synagogue, had been a designated city landmark since 1981 and its history included being the place where Gospel music was born. However, the future of what is left of the church remains widely debated.
Many have weighed in on the Church’s destiny – Church officials, politicians, architects, preservationists. Some had thought it unsalvageable. But in February of 2006, a study by structural engineers of Wiss, Janney, Elstner Assoc., Inc. had shown that significant portions of Pilgrim Baptist’s exterior walls remained structurally sound, leading to much optimism that the Church could be restored.
Update:Since the fire, scaffolding has been in place to stabalize the three remaining walls of the church. Several well-attended stakeholder meetings, which included Preservation Chicago, were conducted to determined how to move forward with the rebuilding. What became of those meetings was a plan to rebuild Pilgrim anew. On Saturday April 3, 2011, the board of Pilgrim Baptist Church announced that the first phase of this 4-phased rebuilding effort would begin in the summer of 2011 and be completed in September of 2012. The Tribune reported that the initial phase will cost $3.5 million dollars.