Feature

Landmark church burns

The week's news at a glance.

Chicago

A historic black church known as the birthplace of gospel music burned to the ground last week. The Pilgrim Baptist Church on Chicago’s South Side was built in 1891 by legendary architect Louis Sullivan, originally as a Jewish synagogue. The Baptist congregation took it over in 1922, and in the 1930s, musical director Thomas Dorsey infused his choir’s traditional church music with jazz and blues to create a new idiom he called gospel; among his singers were Mahalia Jackson and Sam Cooke. Last week, the building was gutted by a blaze that apparently began on a roof that was being repaired. “The building itself is destroyed, not the church,” said congregant Johnnie Mae Johnson. “I can’t promise you we’ll do it in seven days,” said a church official, “but we will rebuild.”

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