May 30th 2023

Piece of African-American History Now Permanently Displayed at Art Institute

Ceramic floor tiles of the Mecca Flats building, once a prominent center of African-American history and culture in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, are now on permanent display at the Art Institute of Chicago in the Woman’s Board Grand Staircase Atrium located just off of the Michigan Avenue lobby, after being donated by the College of Architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology.

Built in 1891 to house visitors to the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, the massive building once occupied a full city block and became a cornerstone of the African-American community, centered along Bronzeville’s famous Stroll on State Street between 31st and 35th streets. Illinois Tech bought the building in 1939, but was demolished in 1952 to make way for S. R. Crown Hall. Professor of Architectural History and Preservation Michelangelo Sabatino spearheaded the donation.

The tiles are displayed next to an ornamental iron railing from a Mecca Flats balcony and other exhibits that highlight remnants of lost buildings from Chicago’s architectural history.