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Chicago’s Greater Union Baptist Church Has Received Preliminary Landmark Status

Chicago’s Greater Union Baptist Church Has Received Preliminary Landmark Status

WBBM has reported that a historic church in Chicago is one step closer to obtaining landmark status. 

Located at 1956 W. Warren on the northeast corner of W. Warren Blvd and N. Damen Ave is where you can find Greater Union Baptist Church. It was built in 1886 and is formerly known as the Church of the Redeemer. After being purchased by a Black congregation in 1928, it became a place of praise, worship and history and has remained that way for the last 94 years.

The pastor and members of the first congregation were men who served in the Union Army and utilized the building for progressive-era lectures. According to Urbanize Chicago, there were local figures who graced the church’s pulpit, such as Reverend Shelbia Hamilton Graham, who supported the Chicago community socially and spiritually from 1947 to 1967, and Biblical scholar Reverend Dr. Walter A McCray, who served from 1996-2002. Returning to the church in 2018, McCray has dedicated immense time into community outreach and charitable programs. The church has even supported other churches, including raising funds for 16th Street Baptist Church after it was damaged by white supremacists in 1963. 


Greater Union Baptist Church has been fighting for landmark status to preserve the one-of-a-kind architecture like the stained-glass windows and brick façade. This effort coincides with the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s project to preserve historical Black churches nationally, an initiative that is being carried out through the African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. The organization is actively supporting Vernon AME Church in Tulsa, Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, and Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham.

Greater Union Baptist Church meets more than one criterion for preservation and has recently been granted preliminary landmark status by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks (CCL). The CCL will propose a final landmark recommendation for the Chicago City Council at a later date. 


Photo: City of Chicago/ Commission on Chicago Landmarks