A number of historical gospel artifacts and manuscripts went up in smoke today (January 6, 2006), in a fire that destroyed the legendary Pilgrim Baptist Church in Chicago.
Pilgrim Baptist Church, which was located on Chicago’s Southside, stood for over 100 years and is noted for being the birthplace of modern gospel music.
According to fire inspectors, the church fire broke out around 3:00 PM
The fire was so great, that it incinerated parked cars and consumed the large steeple which had adorned Pilgrim Baptist Church for over 100 years.
“This is a great loss to this community, a great loss to the city, a great loss to the people who have been through those doors,” Valerie Miles, parishioner, said after the fire.
Pilgrim Baptist Church was the home of Thomas A. Dorsey, who is considered the Father of modern Gospel Music.
Hundreds of boxes of Dorsey’s original manuscripts, compositions and sheet music were consumed in the fire.
During its 100-year history, artists like James Cleveland, The Edwin Hawkins Singers, The Staple Singers, Bessie Coleman, Martin Luther King Jr., Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin and her family (her father taught at the church), passed through Pilgrim Baptist Church.
In the end, the massive fire was ruled accidental, set by workers who were doing a $500,000 renovation to the church’s roof.