Former Johnson Publishing Building Proposed for Landmark Status

November 8, 2017


The former South Michigan Avenue headquarters of the Johnson Publishing Co. would be designated as an official City of Chicago landmark under a recommendation submitted to City Council today by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks.

Located at 820 S. Michigan Ave., the 11-story building was completed in 1971 for the company founded in 1942 by influential African-American entrepreneur John H. Johnson, who over the next six decades turned the organization into the largest Black-owned company in the nation. Johnson’s “Ebony” and “Jet” magazines celebrated achievement and success by African Americans, who were largely ignored or stereotyped by the mainstream media throughout the 20th century. In addition to publishing, the company branched out into fashion, cosmetics, radio and television.

The international style, 110,000-square-foot building was designed by African-American architect John Warren Moutoussamy, who studied architecture under Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He later became the first African-American to become a managing partner at a large Chicago architecture firm when he joined Dubin, Dubin, Black & Moutoussamy.

“The Johnson Publishing Building is an important part of Chicago’s and our nation’s history and this landmark designation will ensure its story is remembered for generations to come,” said Alderman Sophia King, co-sponsor of the designation.

The designation, which was recommended by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks in October 2017, would protect all exterior elevations and rooflines fronting Michigan Avenue and the iconic “Ebony Jet” sign on the roof.


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