Landmarks Illinois Preserves Ebony Test Kitchen from Johnson Publishing Company Building

Landmarks Illinois, a statewide historic preservation nonprofit, is working to preserve the iconic Ebony test kitchen from the former Johnson Publishing Company Building, a Chicago landmark.

Landmarks Illinois recently acquired the test kitchen and materials for $1 and, with the help of volunteer professionals from its Skyline Council, disassembled the kitchen and removed it from the former headquarters of the Johnson Publishing Company. A developer purchased the building, located at 820 S. Michigan Ave., in 2017 with plans to convert the former office space into apartments. Landmarks Illinois wanted to ensure the kitchen was not demolished, but preserved for future display or reuse.

The Ebony test kitchen is being safely stored until future plans are made for preserving and presenting it to the public. Landmarks Illinois is forming a short-term advisory panel to help the organization determine these future plans. It is Landmarks Illinois’ goal this kitchen will be reassembled, displayed and interpreted as an exhibit or reused for educational purpose at an appropriate location where its historic integrity will remain intact and its story will be celebrated.

“Landmarks Illinois looks forward to working collaboratively with our advisory panel and with potential future partners who share a vision for preserving this culturally significant piece of history from the country’s most influential African American publisher of its time,” said Bonnie McDonald, President & CEO of Landmarks Illinois.

Ebony test kitchen

The Johnson Publishing Company Building was completed in 1971 and designed by African American architect John Warren Moutoussamy. It was the former home to Jet and Ebony magazines – publications that shared inspiring stories of African Americans – until the Johnson family sold the building in 2010. The Ebony fourth-floor test kitchen is where Editor Charlotte L. Lyons would test meals before adding them to Ebony’s monthly feature, “A Date with a Dish.”

The Johnson Publishing Company Building was designated a Chicago Landmark in November 2017, for which Landmarks Illinois advocated. The landmark designation protects the building from demolition, but does not protect its interiors.

Source and photo: Landmarks Illinois

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