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Historic Chicago church destroyed by fire

Jan. 7, 2006 at 10:43 AM

CHICAGO, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- A historic Chicago church -- dubbed the birthplace of gospel music -- has been consumed in a blaze thought to be caused by accident.

The Pilgrim Baptist Church at 3301 S. Indiana Ave. became a major-alarm fire Friday afternoon as construction workers were repairing the roof, The Chicago Tribune reports.

Fire media affairs spokesman Larry Langford said there were no injuries.

He said by 3:30 p.m. the fire was declared a 4-11 alarm, which calls for 16 engines, 10 trucks and 145 firefighters to be on the scene.

The district chief, deputy commissioner and four battalion chiefs also responded to a fire Langford said was "way out of control."

There were reports of cars on neighboring 33rd Street catching on fire.

Built in 1890 as a synagogue, it became Pilgrim Baptist Church in 1922 and declared a Chicago landmark in 1981.

The Chicago Department of Planning Development hails it as the first house of gospel, where Mahalia Jackson, Sallie Martin, James Cleveland and the Edwin Hawkins Singers performed.

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