The future of the former site of Pilgrim Baptist Church is bright! Plans are underway to transform the site into the National Museum of Gospel Music. The 45,000 square foot museum is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization and plans to include:
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. A soft opening is targeted for April 2020, the month designated by President Barack Obama as Gospel Music Heritage Month.
Today the landmark limestone walls sit secured and stabilized. Jersey walls were installed to create pedestrian walkways at the request of the GAP Community. Preservationists, the City of Chicago, the Bronzeville community and the religious and gospel music communities are leading the way to create a new international treasure, the National Museum of Gospel Music. A 501 (3) nonprofit organization, the National Museum of Gospel Music will celebrate the impact of gospel music, the lives and legacies of the musicians who create it and preserve its heritage for the future.
On January 2, 2006, a fire was accidentally started during a roof repair project. The fire completely gutted the building but left the historic brick and stone walls structurally sound and intact. Currently, the site quietly remains to await its next step on its journey as the birthplace of gospel music.
Pilgrim Baptist Church is a historical landmark on the south side of Chicago, Illinois, USA. It is located on South Indiana Avenue in the thriving 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 creating 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. Mahalia Jackson, Rev. James Cleveland, Aretha Franklin, Albertina Walker and the Staple Singers among many artists who performed at the church. At the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered sermons at the church, building on the church’s legacy, rich culture and tradition of activism during this integral part of American history.
On April 26, 1973, the church was added to the National Register of Historic Places (a list of buildings deemed worthy of preservation by the United States Government) and was granted landmark status by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks on December 18, 1981.