Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial began this month. And to my great surprise, the event reawakened my urge to photograph, write about and discuss architecture.

So today marks the return of my original blog, The Urban Observer. You might remember my WBEZ 'Beyond the Boat Tour' architecture blog I discontinued two years ago. But like Gilligan's Island, it lives on in reruns.

As part of my reawakening, I'll be giving a presentation October 15 on the historic role of adaptive reuse in black Chicago. Hosted by Landmarks Illinois, the gist of my talk will be this: Converting old South Side and West Side buildings into new uses is hip now--and that is good. But black people have always re-adapted buildings. And not out of trendiness, but out of economic (and sometimes racial) necessity.

One of the buildings I'll talk about is First Church of Deliverance, 43rd and Wabash. My camera and I paid a visit there this week as I prepare for my lecture.

The structure was a hat factory originally.  Then in the 1930s, the congregation bought the building and turned it into a church. Walter Thomas Bailey, the state's first black licensed architect and his pal, black engineer Charles Sumner Duke handled the renovation, which included cladding the outside in terra cotta panels, giving it a streamlined art moderne look. In 1946, the church went a step farther and added those marvelous twin towers--dig that glass block!--designed by Kocher Buss & DeKlerk.
The sanctuary is a knock-out. I'm talking to the congregation now about coming back to take interior photos. I'll put them in a subsequent post if that happens.

Meanwhile, mark your calendars to come check me out Oct 15th from noon to 1:30 at the Auditorium Building, 50 E. Congress. I'll be showing my images of First Church of the Deliverance and other smartly-reused buildings. 

And it's free.


  1. welcome back - looking forward to reading your content again!

  2. Thank you, Mary! More to come!

  3. Very nice. Would love to join you.

  4. Good to hear from you again Lee. I was a big fan of your BEZ blog. I'll look forward to more!

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  6. Glad you're back. Well, you never went away, really. But this is a great revival.

  7. Lee, will I get automatic email notifications of all your future posts? I checked the notify box below; will that do it? Or does that just lemme know when you've approved a comment for publication? Inquiring minds want to know.