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Section of Balcony Railing, Mecca Apartment Building, Chicago, Illinois

A work made of painted cast iron.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of painted cast iron.




Edbrooke and Burnham (American, 1879–1892)
Franklin Pierce Burnham (American, 1853-1909)
Willoughby J. Edbrooke (American, 1843-1896)

About this artwork

Designed prior to the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1891, the Mecca Apartments featured distinctive interior light courts and balconies with decorative cast-iron railings. The structure became famous for its many afterlives, first as a popular residential building in the heart of a Bronzeville, a prominent African American neighborhood in Chicago’s South Side, with a thriving jazz music scene in the 1920s. The building was immortalized by the song “Mecca Flat Blues” and later a poem “In the Mecca” by Gwendolyn Brooks from 1968. By the 1950s the aging Mecca Flats was home to a group of residents who fought to preserve it after the building was purchased by the Illinois Institute of Technology. Ultimately unsuccessful, this conflict between the white administration and architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe—whose S. R. Crown Hall would be built on the site—and the surrounding African American community, encapsulates the broader histories of segregation, modernism, and urban renewal.


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Architecture and Design


Edbrooke and Burnham (Architect)


Section of Balcony Railing, Mecca Apartment Building, Chicago, Illinois


United States




Painted cast iron


29 3/8 × 41 3/4 in.

Credit Line

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Vernon P. Reynolds

Reference Number


IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

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Extended information about this artwork

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