The Johnson Publishing Company Building at 820 S. Michigan Avenue has formally entered the official Chicago Landmark designation process. Completed in 1971, this modernist 11-story mid-rise was built by “legendary African-American entrepreneur John H. Johnson, who made his fortune as the publisher of magazines including Ebony and Jet.” The building served as the headquarters for Johnson Publishing, one of the largest black-owned businesses in the nation.
The building was designed by John Warren Moutoussamy, an architect who became the first African American partner in a large architectural firm, Dubin, Dubin, Black & Moutoussamy. During his time at Illinois Institute of Technology, he studied with Mies van der Rohe. The building was the first and remains the only high-rise in downtown Chicago designed by an African American. The spectacular, exuberant, and extraordinary original interiors were created by Arthur Elrod and William Raiser.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, called the building an “epicenter of Black history and culture.”
“It was a beacon-literally a beacon of hope,” said artist Raymond Anthony Thomas, a former Johnson Publishing art director who worked in the building for 23 years. “We knew that building was ours.” (Ebony, Lee Bey, 2/1/17)
Preservation Chicago testified on behalf of this important and significant building and is thrilled that it is being honored, celebrated and protected with a Landmark Designation.
The building was purchased by Columbia College Chicago from Johnson Publications in 2010. The intended conversion a library and student center lost momentum. In 2016, Columbia began marketing the building for sale. The landmark designation will both provide protection to the historic structure as well as provide beneficial tax credits for the eventual adaptive reuse of the building after the future sale.
Johnson Publishing Building To Be Considered For Landmark Status, City Of Chicago, 2/2/17