Black author Lee Bey said, “Buildings are precious to Bronzeville’s revival,” so I recommend starting your visit to the neighborhood with a tour of some of the most notable.
Preservationists have been hard at work on keeping the Forum Assembly, a 19th-century meeting hall that might otherwise be lost to history. Designed by Samuel Atwater Treat, it’s not the most beautiful of buildings, but that’s part of its charm, in my opinion. The faded bricks and massive, painstakingly colorful angelic frescos of the large building (reminiscent of a Black church) is a priceless piece of local history. Now a member of the National Register of Historic Places, the institution, which has stood since 1897, has hosted performances by the likes of Milt Hinton and Muddy Waters. You can find it at 318–328 East 43rd St., and still catch live jazz, hip-hop, and poetry performances there today.
While several historical former residences still exist, many locations are approximations due to lack of records. Andrew “Rube” Foster, founder of the Negro National Baseball League lived around 39th and Wentworth Avenue. Ida B. Wells, famous civil rights activist and co-organizer of the NAACP, lived at 3624 South King Drive. The Ida B. Wells House, a national historic landmark named after the famed freedom fighter and social justice warrior who strove to bring an end to lynching and segregation, is not open to the public, but can be admired from the street. The first licensed Black and Native American aviatrix Bessie Coleman lived around 41st St. and King Drive. And acclaimed R&B legend Sam Cooke called 3527 South Cottage Grove his home. This location is currently a private residence, but can also be viewed from the street.