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Birthplace of American Gospel Music Destroyed by Fire

A historical church in Chicago, known as the birthplace of American gospel music, was destroyed by fire.
( [email protected] ) Jan 06, 2006 11:58 PM EST

A historical church in Chicago, known as the birthplace of American gospel music, was destroyed by fire.

On Friday afternoon, a roaring blaze started in the 116-year-old Pilgrim Baptist Church located on the city’s South Side. Shortly after that, the roof of the Church has collapsed. Flames and thick black smoke can be seen from far away. Cause of the fire has not been known so far, according to the Associated Press (AP).

Built between 1890 and 1891, the building was originally a synagogue, but was converted into a church since 1922.

Not only was the Church built by famous architectural firm of Adler & Sullivan, it is also known as the place where American gospel music first emerged in the history, Tuomi Forrest, associate director of the group Partners for Sacred Places told the Reuters.

Thomas A. Dorsey, the son of a Baptist minister, was a longtime music director for the church during the 1930’s. According to Reuters, he melded blues with sacred hymns into gospel music. His choir featured such stars as Mahalia Jackson, James Cleveland and Sally Martin.

Ned Cramer, curator of the Chicago Architecture Foundation said, "For Chicago to lose a landmark like this is irreplaceable. It's devastating," according to the AP.

The latest report from AP says that the fire has not been fully contained more than an hour after the blaze. More than 100 firefighters and some 50 pieces of equipment were on the scene.