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Ebenezer Baptist Church

4501 S Vincennes Ave.

When Ebenezer Baptist Church acquired the Dankmar Adler-designed Isaiah Temple in 1921, this became one of the largest black congregations in Chicago. Ten years later, the church became foundational to the birth of gospel music. That was when the pastor, Dr. James Howard Lorenzo Smith, decided he wanted his services to include the kinds of songs he heard while growing up in the South. He assigned the task to choir director Theodore Frye and pianist Thomas A. Dorsey who formed the first modern gospel chorus here. After one month’s rehearsals, the 100-member choir performed a mix of spirituals, hymns and Dorsey’s own compositions that drew from his experiences playing jazz and blues. Audiences packed the room to see the choirs theatrical presentation complete with handicapping and spontaneous shouts. The following year, Dorsey moved on to the nearby Pilgrim Baptist Church but the music he helped create in this building continues to enlighten the world.

– A.C. 

Caption: Current location of Ebenezer Baptist Church.

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