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Please keep checking back in with us as we work to build out our website. We've prepared a brief page here to provide you with background information on the project and to keep you abreast of the development and community activities and engagement.



Pilgrim Baptist Church is a historical landmark on the south side of Chicago, Illinois, USA. It is located on South Indiana Avenue in the burgeoning Bronzeville neighborhood. Pilgrim was designed in 1890 by architects Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler and originally constructed as a synagogue. In 1922 a Baptist congregation acquired the building forming Pilgrim Baptist Church and becoming a safe haven and pillar of hope for African Americans migrating from the south.

In the 1930s Pilgrim became known as the birthplace of gospel music. Thomas Dorsey, (The Father of Gospel Music) served as the music director for decades. Mahaliah Jackson, Rev. James Cleveland, Aretha Franklin, Albertina Walker and the Staple Singers are just a few artists who performed at the church. At the height of the Civil Rights Movement Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered sermons at the church building on the church's legacy and rich culture and tradition of activism during this integral part of American history.

On December 18, 1981 The Commission on Chicago Landmarks granted Pilgrim landmark status. The National Register of Historic Places, the United States federal government's official list of buildings deemed worthy of preservation, bestowed the honor of a building worthy of preservation upon the church on April 26, 1973.

THe Fire

On Friday, January 6, 2006, a raging blaze destroyed the 115-year old Pilgrim Baptist Church. Church members and neighbors stood vigil for hours as firefighters worked to bring the blaze under control. When the smoke cleared, the fire had destroyed the interior of the church known for its rich acoustics.


Today the burned out remains and landmark limestone walls sit secured and stabilized awaiting its next reincarnation. Jersey Walls have been installed for pedestrian walkways at the request of the GAP Community. Preservationists, the City of Chicago, and the Bronzeville and religious and gospel music communities as well as educational and architectural organizations are all leading the way to restore what is left of this landmark and historical structure.



The future of the former site of Pilgrim Baptist Church is bright! Plans are underway to make the site home of the National Museum of Gospel Music. The 45,000 square foot museum will feature:

  • Multigenerational programming and educational exhibits
  • Auditorium seating up to 350 designed for television production
  • Exclusive video archives and collection of the Stellar Gospel Music Awards programming
  • Listening and research library
  • Café and retail store
  • Rental facilities for special events and community use

The proposed project is developed by Don Jackson, CEO of Central City Productions and founder of the Stellar Gospel Music Awards and architect Dirk Lohan of Wight & Company. It is planned to open in 2020, the month designated by former President Barack Obama as Gospel Music Heritage Month.



Friday, December 8, 2017, 2:30 p.m.
IIT Crown Hall, 10 W 35th St, Chicago, IL


Friday, December 8, 2017, 6 – 8 p.m.
IIT Crown Hall, 10 W 35th St, Chicago, IL

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