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Chicago's oldest house may be getting a new name soon

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Soon, Chicago's oldest house may be getting a new name. Built in the 1830s, the Henry B. Clarke House has lots of stories to tell. It survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. And now it's a house museum focused on the city before the Civil War.

ELIZABETH BLASIUS: Folks in Chicago sort of know the house because it's so old, because it's a relic of antebellum Chicago.

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

That is architectural historian Elizabeth Blasius. She says one part of the house's history has gone unremembered - the man who saved it from demolition, Bishop Louis Henry Ford.

BLASIUS: The grassroots historic preservation movement began with Bishop Ford and the St. Paul Church of God in Christ in 1941. Bishop Ford and the church not only cared for the house, using specialized Black labor, but they were outspoken about its importance.

FADEL: Ford, his family and his church spent decades working to preserve the home, a link to the city's history. And yet, like so many Black icons in U.S. history, his contributions were written out of the narrative of Chicago's oldest house.

KEVIN ANTHONY: I went on one of the tours there, and the tour guide was explaining the house. I just blurted out, you haven't made mention of the history of this house as it relates to St. Paul Church of God in Christ.

MARTINEZ: That's Bishop Ford's grandson, Pastor Kevin Anthony, referring to the church where his grandfather served. Pastor Anthony is now leading an effort to rename the house.

ANTHONY: As it relates to African Americans in the city of Chicago and this nation, the history has been obfuscated, in many arenas obliterated. So it's critical that the African American component to history be brought into the light.

FADEL: This week, Pastor Anthony will make his case to the Chicago City Council to name the house after his grandfather who fought to save it.

(SOUNDBITE OF RINZ'S "ON MY WAY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.