Black Cinema House II

Since the last post on the Black Cinema House, back in May, much progress has been made. 

Two weekends back, there was a a great cookout in the back of the library house, where the garden has been expanded and newly bordered in the back with a substantial brick wall. The lady and I toured the now-empty garage next to the library house, which has been gutted.

Across the street, the BCH is slowly taking shape. Finish carpentry is a painstaking craft, and the whole building is a piece of art. I feel like that is often said about buildings, usually referring to some starchitect museum complex or luxury condominiums that use imported marble and titanium cladding. This, however, really is a work of art, marked with the evidence of a dozen skilled craftsmen.

6901 Dorchester Avenue is a different, truer piece, made by hand from the bones of old buildings. Just last week I glued together a broken maple stair tread, added a piece of walnut flooring to fill it out, attached a piece of poplar to shim it up, blocked out a new structure in the stairwell, sanded it down, and re-fit it. This is not about speed, or modernity; it is about resurrecting something fractured, reuniting something split, and rebuilding with the remnants of something long since past.
The library house.

The cookout buffet.

The kids had a craft table in the garden.

Khari, of the Black Monks of Mississippi, chilling with Theo and Tony of the ReBuild crew.

Menu and photos from the Soul Food Dinner series.

New seating area built into the new back brick wall, made of concrete blocks excised from the floor of the painting studio at the Art Institute.

Traces of the old paint remain. The blocks form a large hearth for the fire pit in the middle.

The garage space has been gutted, turning the basement into a 2-story space.

The lady is an avid letterpresser.


The main downstairs space. Screen drops from the ceiling straight ahead.

Looking back from where the screen is.

Massive redwood shelves were mortared right into the brick.

Redwood wall around salvaged Crispus Attucks Elementary sink.

Hand-carved Chinese doors in the master bedroom.


BCH all cleaned up.

Had a visit from Ken Dunn, the godfather  of Chicago recycling, to get some old packing crate material for future basement baseboards.

He threw in a bunch of real nice white oak 6" x 6"s too.

The lady does her best Angelina Jolie at the head of the basement stairs, which I scrapped together out of flooring fragments -- oak, maple, walnut, and Douglas fir. I also put up the stringers, which was a real mathematical coup for me.

Used scraps of redwood for the risers. Mad contrast.

The second flight of the basement stairs were slated for restoration rather than replacement. The treads were solid maple that had been painted and carpeted over at various points.

Dave, one of the other carpenters, generously donated some expertise and boss epoxy to patch the treads. The 2" x 4"s are wedging the treads back into place, acting as clamps as the epoxy cures.

The bottom step was in three separate pieces, so we glued it up on a flat surface.


New blocking and restored riser under first step.

Patched bottom step. Three pieces of reunited maple plus a strip of walnut, a poplar shim, and plywood reinforcement on the bottom.

Put back together, all steps screwed back in, with fasteners countersunk and plugged and sanded out.

Bottom step with new walnut trim, sanded riser, and new pine trim back to the brick.

Slightly washed-out photo of the trim at the bottom stair. I notched the baseboard around the existing tenon in the stringer for fun.

Resolution of trim at the top of the stair.