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.
- Currently Off View
- 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.
- Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Vernon P. Reynolds