Words Create Worlds
Save Chicago's Last Phyllis Wheatley Home
Call For Ideas: The Chicago Architectural Club
AUTHOR: Percibald García
OPEN CALL FOR IDEAS: Save Chicago's Last Phyllis Wheatley Home
ORGANIZER: The Chicago Architectural Club
"Architecture is an act of care" , this is an alternative title for this image, where Chicago's Last Phyllis Home is restored to become a place where the acts of care have a place a time to be seen and appreciated. Throughout history the actions of care, performed mostly by women have been invisibilized and diminished in many societies, making believe that they don't have a part in the economic success of families and men.
The world after COVID 19 pandemics and the current economic crisis is showing how important collective cooperation is to survive. That's why spaces like Phyllis Wheatley Homes will be needed more and more in the future.
Architecture can and must take part in this social transformation. The image is composed of pieces of paper with a poem written by Phyllis Wheatley which, she expresses the deep power of imagination for creating worlds.
I believe architecture is built with more than physical materials; our rituals, encounters, and acts of care for our communities represent the intangible bodies of our houses, neighborhoods, and cities
The poster was exposed outside the last Chicago Last Phyllis Wheatley Home during the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial. The poster came in two formats, one with the proposal of spaces where actions of care take place, and another where the spaces are empty for the community to express what they would like them to become. Words create worlds.
Elizabeth Lindsay Davis and a group of black women opened the first Phyllis Wheatley Home in Chicago in the early 1900s to support, educate, and provide a safe place for African American women and girls who either moved to the city during the Great Migration or who needed safe housing. A total of three Phyllis Wheatley Homes were opened in Chicago. The third and last remaining Phyllis Wheatley Home in Chicago is located at 5128 S. Michigan Avenue in Hyde Park.
The Phyllis Wheatley Home and Club’s name was inspired by Phillis Wheatley (1753 - 1784), a poet originally from West Africa. She was kidnapped and brought to the United States when she was seven, enslaved until her emancipation in 1773. Phillis Wheatley was the first person of African descent and the second woman to publish a book in America.
In addition to its importance as an institution for the advancement of black women, the 6,600 square foot home was built in 1896 and designed by the renowned Chicago architect Frederick B. Townsend. Despite its historical significance and architectural value, the Phyllis Wheatley Home is facing the threat of demolition due to its poor physical conditions and code violations. The privately-owned home has suffered water infiltrations and is in urgent need of repairs as well as a new purpose.
CALL FOR IDEAS:
The Phyllis Wheatley Home served Chicago's black community for 75 years and over 50 years in this location -- the preservation of this building will keep alive the memories of the black women who devoted their work to protecting and advancing black women’s rights.
At present, this building with significant historical memory and meaning faces an uncertain future with the threat of its demolition. Preservation Chicago has named the Phyllis Wheatley Home as one of the seven most endangered buildings of 2021 in Chicago. The Chicago Architectural Club (CAC) is calling for new visions in the form of posters as the first step to initiate crowd-sourcing ideas to save this site and honor its memory by imagining a new life and purpose for the Phyllis Wheatley Home.
Dr. Joann Tate - the owner of the Phyllis Wheatley Home - envisions the continued future of the home as “a transformative oasis for Black Women who need any type of positive and/or productive transitioning”. What is the future of the last standing Phyllis Wheatley Home in Chicago?