Historic Bronzeville Church and South Loop House Museum Online for Critical Upgrades, Thanks to City Grant

GRAND BOULEVARD – The birthplace of gospel music and one of Chicago’s most awe-inspiring residences are among 12 structures in the city chosen for Adopt-A-Landmark grants.

Bronzeville Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, 4501 S. Vincennes Ave., and South Loop’s Glessner House, 1800 S. Prairie Ave., are expected to receive $ 900,000 and $ 100,000, respectively, as part of the municipal program, which aims to preserve institutions important to the history of Chicago.

Second Presbyterian Church, 1936 S. Michigan Ave., is also awaiting a grant of $ 250,000.

The grants must be approved by the city’s monuments commission, which considered the finalists on Thursday. Grants over $ 250,000 must also be approved by city council.

Once allocated, the money can pay for exterior renovations visible from the street or interior renovations accessible to the public.

For Ebenezer, who dates back 119 years, this grant means church leaders can finally make vital roof repairs and restore stained glass windows throughout the sanctuary. At its peak, Ebenezer attracted 1,200 worshipers to Sunday services.

Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden
The grant will also support the restoration of stained glass windows that have withstood the elements for decades.

Administrator Stanley Stovall said that although membership numbers have declined, the church has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic by spreading the gospel worldwide on Facebook Live.

“We’re down to 200 members, but we’ve done what we can to keep everything running,” said Stovall, whose roots at Ebenezer stretch for generations. “People are logging in wherever they are to watch our service and send donations. We are grateful.

The dignitaries who sat in the shrine have as much history as the building itself. From Mahalia Jackson to Martin Luther King Jr., Ebenezer was the first stop for many during the civil rights movement. This is where the king gave his sermon, “A stroke at midnight, ”On a trip north.

It is also known as the birthplace of gospel music; frontman Thomas Dorsey created Ebenezer’s first gospel choir in the early 1930s, launching a concept that has been adopted by black churches around the world. Dorsey has helped other South Side churches with their own music programs.

“Dinah Washington was a choir member here before she became Dinah Washington, and Roberta martin made it start here. When Dorsey left she picked it up and carried on, along with other musicians who came in, ”Stovall said.

Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden
The painting of Jesus Christ and his apostles has adorned the church sanctuary for generations.

The Glessner House was built in 1887.

What manufacturing mogul John J. Glessner envisioned as a comfortable and welcoming home was seen as an eyesore to neighbors disappointed with its allure. Built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style – a mix of French, Spanish and Italian Romanesque features from the 11th and 12th centuries – the house was distinctive for the time. Architect HH ​​Richardson took a minimalist approach to design and installed an interior courtyard.

The national monument changed hands several times before being saved by a group of architects and curators in the mid-1960s. Public tours began in 1971, the house has been kept afloat thanks to philanthropic donation efforts. individuals and foundation support. It was named a national historic monument in 1976.

Credit: Provided
The Glessner House living room, a Chicago Open House favorite.

The city grant would help rulers complete roofing work on the 134-year-old structure. With fundraising covering two-thirds of the cost, the $ 100,000 grant will help Glessner House reach its goal of $ 300,000 for repairs.

“In many ways, the efforts to save the house ushered in the modern preservation movement,” said William Tire, executive director and curator of Glessner House. “Since that time it has been extensively restored to its original appearance. The Glessner family rendered virtually all of the original furniture, much of which was custom-made for the family and the home.

A Chicago Open House favorite, the house drew 10,000 visitors a year before the pandemic. The Glessner house had to pivot during the eight-month shutdown last year, which increased its visibility and support. Keeping people engaged through a bi-monthly e-newsletter and other online initiatives has proven to be effective.

Now the home is gearing up for another influx of visitors this month as it gears up for the holidays.

“This building was saved because it was architecturally significant, but when people come to visit us what they really get is a wonderful story about an incredibly interesting family who has documented their lives very, very well. “said Tire. Ms. Glessner was a very talented craftsman, and their daughter became what was called the ‘mother of forensic science’. I think people are surprised when they come to look at the building and come away with this interesting story. about some really interesting people who made an impact in Chicago.

The exterior of the Glessner House. Its design was considered an “eyesore” to neighbors during its construction.

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