The Chicago Defender's New Headquarters

The Obsidian Collection Archives

The Chicago Defender Newspaper's new headquarters was purchased by its Owner and President John Sengstacke in 1960.  Built in 1936 as the Illinois Automobile Club, the building was abandoned as car dealers moved to the suburbs.  This move was significant to Black Chicago as well as the Defender's continued coverage of Black America.

Sengstacke, owner of The Chicago Defender Newspaper, had an ambitious vision for its future.  He purchased this three-story, 63,000 square foot building that was built in 1936 as the Illinois Automobile Club.  It was an urban interval destination for the owners and executives working in the neighborhood called "Motor Row."  The building became vacant as dealerships moved to the suburbs with their clientele.

The new building at 2400 S. Michigan was located at the intersection of 24th and Michigan.

One of the final touches to the building was a quote from Defender founder Robert S. Abbott etched into the lobby floor: "No greater glory, no greater honor, is the lot of many departing than a feeling possessed deep in his heart that the world is a better place for his having lived."

Choosing a location that allowed workers to arrive with relative ease was part of the plan. This bus is chartered, but public buses were nearby for employees.

Secretaries are moving from the old building to the new.

The secretaries admire their new headphones for their jobs at the new location.

Executive L. Alex Wilson is hard at work in the new building.

Secretaries were provided with state-of-the-art electronic typewriters.

The Defender cashiers were on hand to receive payments for advertisement and event participation.

Display booths in the new lobby attract visitors and tourists.

With an increasing staff, lunch breaks were taken in many shifts.

New Printing Presses
Having the printing presses located on site was a milestone for the Chicago Defender.  Black men had the opportunity to learn how to operate this significant machinery, a task previously prohibited to African Americans.

The first set of printing press operators were not Black as they were not part of the union and didn't know how to operate the equipment. But soon they learned.

John Sengstacke looks at a newspaper hot off the presses!

Over time Black men learned to operate the equipment and ran everything from the typesetting to the printing presses.

Children from Ruggles Elementary School stopped by for a tour and were part of The Chicago Defender's Billiken program. (December 4, 1965)

Credits: Story

Source: The Chicago Defender Archives
Partner: The Obsidian Collection Archives

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