Historic Chicago church to get new life as 'National Museum of Gospel Music'

There’s hope on the horizon after a fire devastated one of Chicago’s most historic churches.

Pilgrim Baptist Church will now become home to the first National Museum of Gospel Music in the country.

For many in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, gospel music is more than song. It's a part of their soul, tradition and foundation -- and Chicago’s gospel roots reach nationwide.

Now, some of the biggest names in gospel music are uniting, trying to raise money in honor of the birthplace of gospel music, the only way they know how -- through song.

Artists like Donnie McClurkin and Israel Houghten performed in Bronzeville last week in support of a brand new national museum of gospel, and thousands came out to show support.

Organizer Don Jackson says the concert was all about letting the community know what's coming -- a state-of-the-art museum with exhibits, artifacts, even an auditorium.

“When you open the doors, you're going to be blown away by the encouragement, motivation, inspiration that gospel music is all about,” Jackson said.

Jackson says the $40-million-dollar project will break ground next year with the doors opening in 2020, and the museum's location might be the best part. It'll all happen on the grounds of the historic Pilgrim Baptist Church -- known as the birthplace of gospel music.

On January 6, 2006, the church went up in flames and for the last 12 years, the structure has stood largely empty.

“The community was devastated by it,” Jackson said.

Now, Jackson hopes to transform that space into a community sanctuary of sorts. A safe place for teens to come perform or be inspired by their favorite artists -- revitalizing a rich and soulful Chicago history for generations to come.

“That's what I'm looking forward to - to make this a safe haven for our community and we're excited about that,” Jackson said.