February 19, 2020

Historic Bronzeville Church Associated with the Civil Rights Movement Proposed for Landmark Status

The 109-year-old Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church complex in Grand Boulevard would be designated an official Chicago landmark under a Commission on Chicago Landmarks recommendation submitted to City Council today.

Prominent Chicago architect Alfred Alschuler designed the Neoclassical style campus at 4600 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive as the third home for the Sinai Congregation, Chicago’s first Jewish reform congregation. Completed in 1912, the complex consists of the former synagogue and social settlement house joined by a connecting wing. Clad in limestone, the main building features a soaring front entrance portico framed by six Ionic columns, a four-story sanctuary with a barrel vault ceiling, a central skylight, and stained-glass windows depicting geometric and floral forms.

Sinai Temple was also well-known as a social and educational center, with programming that included lectures by Jane Addams, Harold L. Ickes, Louis Brandeis, Clarence Darrow and Eleanor Roosevelt. It was later the headquarters for civil rights groups such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Operation Breadbasket and Operation PUSH. The church was the site where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his sermon “Why Jesus Called A Man A Fool” in 1967, during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

The temple was sold to the Catholic Archbishop of Chicago in 1944 and became Corpus Christi High School. Mt Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church acquired the building in 1962.

The designation was recommended by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks earlier this month.

 

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