CHICAGO — Along Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, near the Bronzeville neighborhood, sits a mansion with history that goes beyond the frame that you see.
Joi Weathers grew up down the street from the home.
“First off, it is a beautiful,” she said. “It has that iconic Chicago architecture.”
But what’s more captivating is what would go on inside. The three-story building was built in 1896. It became known as the Phyllis Wheatley Home. From 1915 until 1967, it was a settlement home for Black women coming to Chicago during the Great Migration.
Ward Miller is with Preservation Chicago.
“Its importance is linked to the African American women’s movement and suffrage,” he said.
Dr. Joann Tate purchased the home without knowing the rich history behind the walls. After falling on hard times, she and her family were forced to move out while history sat without all of Chicago knowing. Now the home sits on a demolition list by the city. Tate and Weathers are fighting to change that with the help of Preservation Chicago.
“Black women were migrating from the South and they had nowhere to go because economically, there were no jobs here for them,” Tate said. “So this was a place that spiritually, intellectually, socially, economically, they will magnify, to the point that they could go out and get a job and be somebody.”
“We really have to recognize some of these other stories that have been sort of pushed aside and forgotten,” Miller said. “And the preservation of this house, The Wheatley Home, is so very important to acknowledging that story and Preservation Chicago was also at the forefront.
They’re hoping their March 16 court date will change the future of the home and make it a historic landmark. It would preserve 125 years worth of history that’s part of Black woman’s story here in Chicago.
“It insights other people to do greatness,” Tate said. “So we have got to make sure that our history has to stop being destroyed. Bronzeville is an area of color. That’s the reason why we need to save whatever color is there. We need to save to save the history of bonds.”