First Church of Deliverance

Chicago, Illinois | C.1939

Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers

Founded by Reverend Clarence H. Cobbs, the First Church of Deliverance began in 1933 with a congregation of nine members in the basement of his mother’s home. Today, the church calls a unique Streamline Moderne-style building home — designed by the first African American architect registered in Illinois, Walter T. Bailey.

In 1928, Cobbs experienced his calling to the church while riding the bus. Driven by his passion, he started organizing services at his mother’s home in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood before officially being ordained the next year. To serve his growing congregation, he purchased a former hat factory on South Wabash Avenue for $25,000.

In need of remodeling, Rev. Cobbs commissioned Walter T. Bailey to redesign the outer façade of the building. A renowned architect in the Midwest, Bailey was the head of the Mechanical Industries Department at the Tuskegee Institute and practiced in both Memphis and Chicago. His notable works include several Tuskegee campus buildings and commissions for the Knights of Pythias fraternity.

Bailey’s design approach involved Streamline Moderne, a popular style of Art Deco design from the 1930s involving curved forms, long horizontal lines, and a machine aesthetic. The First Church of Deliverance is one of the rare examples of Streamline Moderne being used for a house of worship. The Church’s prominent two towers were later added in 1946.

Members are welcomed inside with an eclectic interior of murals, carved wooden doors, and a brightly illuminated multi-colored cross that spans the ceiling. A major influence in gospel music, the Church has been broadcasting church services for 80 years, and is the longest continuing program to do so. The Church was designated a Chicago Landmark in 1994.

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