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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 January 2006, 13:48 GMT
Fire destroys historic US church
Pilgrim Baptist Church in flames
The famous church had stood for over a century
A landmark church known as the birthplace of American gospel music has been destroyed in a fire in Chicago.

The 116-year-old Pilgrim Baptist Church in the city's South Side went up in flames on Friday night.

There were no reports of injuries and the cause of the blaze was not immediately known.

The building, designed by distinguished architects Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler, was built as a synagogue but was converted into a church in 1922.

Ned Cramer, curator of the Chicago Architecture Foundation, said the loss of the building was devastating.

"It's like hearing a close relative has died or a good friend. It's heartbreaking," he said.

During the 1930s, the church's congregation and music director, Thomas A Dorsey, merged blues and hymns, creating what became known as gospel music.

The choir featured stars including Mahalia Jackson, James Cleveland and Sally Martin.

The church was replete with the architectural features, such as ornamental designs, vaulted ceilings and grand acoustics, which made Sullivan and Adler famous.

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