Sacred Spaces in 360°

Tour of Pilgrim Baptist Church, Chicago, IL

Pilgrim Baptist is and was one of the jewels of Chicago religious history. Though the church building burnt in 2006, its frame remains a landmark in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. The church community continues to meet across the street in replacement facilities.

Built in 1890, the building was designed by Chicago's premier architects, Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan. It was originally built as the new home for the Kehilath Anshe Ma'ariv (KAM) Synagogue, Chicago's oldest Jewish congregation and the synagogue to which Adler himself belonged. In the 1920s, KAM relocated to Hyde Park, where it later merged with two other synagogues and today lives on as KAM Isaiah Israel. 

A growing African American Baptist community named Pilgrim Baptist purchased the building and transformed it into a church. Pilgrim Baptist served as one of the most important community centers during the Great Migration, during which tens of thousands of African Americans migrated from the American South to Chicago. Pilgrim Baptist became a center of Gospel Music and a pulpit for civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Architecturally, Pilgrim Baptist followed a combination of Romanesque and Italian Renaissance design patterns, with the former most evident in the arches and the latter in the roof design. The interior included a preponderance of Louis Sullivan's ornamentation. The bottom floor hosted education and social rooms, with the main worship hall directly above it, and a second floor balcony. 

The VR tour allows guests to walk around and through the structure as photographed in 2016, as well as travel back in time to 1964. The historic images are courtesy of the Library of Congress's Historic American Buildings Survey.

Instuctions for Using the Tour

Click below to enter the tour. There are three versions, optimized for a regular computer display, mobile devices and handheld tablets, and VR enabled devices such as Google Cardboard.


When using a computer, you navigate with your mouse/trackpad. Using your cursor, you can click and drag to change your view to anywhere within the 360° area. Click on the arrows to move to different areas in the tour. You can also use the buttons in the menu bar at the bottom of the screen to pan in different directions, zoom, and change the various interface options. Go ahead and experiment. If something stops working, you can always reload!

As you move the cursor through the screen you will see some highlighted regions appear. Click on them to bring up informative popups. There are also a few “more info” buttons that also open popups. Just click on those buttons to open a popup. To close a popup, click inside the popup box.


On a tablet or phone, you navigate by moving the device (if your device supports gyroscopic feedback, which most do), or by dragging the image on the screen. Touch the arrows or highlighted areas to explore the tour. Touch the popup boxes to close them. Sometimes, depending on how you are holding your mobile device, you may not always face the same way as you progress through the tour. You can turn off the gyroscopic controls by clicking the small gyroscope image at the bottom of the screeen.

The tour works best in landscape (horizontal) mode.

On some phones you may need to lift up your phone to portrait mode, then back to landscape mode, in order to clear the menu bar at the top or bottom of the screen. 


The tours can also be experienced in full 360° using a VR headset, such as a Google cardboard. Once the tour opens, click on the viewer icon to active VR mode (see image on left). You may need to do this on a second screen (see image on right).

To navigate the tour in VR mode, point the small white crosshairs in the center of the view towards buttons or arrows.

If you are using a phone as a VR headset, it is suggested that you turn off screen lock and automatic dimming to avoid interuption of the tour.

On all devices, you can also navigate the tour using the control bar at the bottom of of the screen.


VR walkthrough of Pilgrim Baptist Church, optimized for computer: http://digitalchicago.lakeforest.edu/dcfiles/zeller/PB/index.html

VR walkthrough of Pilgrim Baptist Church, optimized for mobile and handheld devices: (temporarily offline)

VR walkthrough of Pilgrim Baptist Church, optimized for VR devices, e.g. Google Cardboard: (temporarily offline)