August 19, 2019

Ebony’s Test Kitchen Is for Sale

Ebony’s Test Kitchen Is for Sale

A psychedelic kitchen from the 1970s, where Ebony magazine editors long tested recipes for cookbooks and columns, is available for $1 to buyers who will honor the room’s history.

Last year, the nonprofit preservation group Landmarks Illinois removed the kitchen’s components, including swirling orange wallcoverings and olive green counters, from the Chicago headquarters of the Johnson Publishing Company, which is being converted into apartments. This week, Landmarks Illinois has begun fielding proposals for future stewards who will keep the space on public view.

Johnson’s owners commissioned the building, at 820 South Michigan Avenue, from the architect John W. Moutoussamy. Landmarks Illinois’s request for proposals notes that the company headquarters “remains today the only high-rise office building in downtown Chicago built by an African American.”

Lisa DiChiera, director of advocacy for Landmarks Illinois, said the kitchen merits careful reassembly and exhibition as a testament to its cultural significance as well as “its explosive design factor.” A new monograph (from Gibbs Smith) by Adele Cygelman about a co-designer of the building’s original interiors, Arthur Elrod, describes the kitchen and other rooms as embodying “Afrocentric Modernism.”

The Johnson interiors, now largely gutted, have been documented by various Chicago experts. An exhibition of photographs of its rooms by Barbara Karant is now on view at the Cliff Dwellers Club.

Portions of the publishing company’s furnishings, as well as archival materials, have been donated to Rebuild Foundation, established by the artist Theaster Gates.

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