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Pui Tak Center

On Leong Merchants Association Building (formerly Pui Tak Center) in Chinatown. The On Leong Merchants Association was built in 1928 by Christian S. Michaelsen and Sigurd A. Rognstad. In the Association's words, it was "Chinatown's municipal hall." Authorities raided the facility in 1988. In the same year, the US took it. The Pui Tak Center was purchased for $1.4 million by the Chinese Christian Union Church. A Chicago Landmark since 1997, the On Leong Merchants Association Building. The CCUC raised $1 million in donations for the interior upgrades. ASL classes are offered at the Pai Tak Center (ESL). An American Express/National Trust for Historic Preservation initiative awarded the Pui Tak Center a $100,000 grant. Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates analyzed the building's eastern and southern faces, focusing on the terra cotta. It will take until early 2010 to complete the renovation. The building's exterior terracotta and clay roof tiles will be totally restored for $2 million. From 1912, Chinese businesses moved on the South Side. To be built on the 200 block of West 22nd Street by deed-holder and former Illinois State's Attorney Jacob J. Kern (now Cermak Road). The structure has a third-floor balcony and white tile trim with Chinese dragons. The Association had reached Level 3 by 1914.

Chinatown community leaders leased around 50 properties in the 1920s. Jim Moy, the Association's director, chose a Chinese-style building to announce the Chinese community's arrival. Christian S. Michaelsen and Sigurd A. Rognstad, both of Chicago, designed the On Leong Merchants Association Building in 1926. Moy engaged Michaelsen and Rognstad to build his Peacock Inn in Uptown in 1920.

An Orientalism architect's interpretation of Chinese architectural forms was the result. Rognstad devised exterior Teco sculptural embellishments, made by American Terra Cotta Company of Crystal Lake, Illinois. On July 4, 1926, the Chicago Tribune called it "one of the most expensive and spectacular Chinese buildings ever erected in America." The $1 million project ended in 1927. There were conference rooms, a school, a shrine, and offices for the On Leong Merchants Association. Informally, it was Chinatown's "city hall." As a result of the On Leong Association, St. Therese Chinese Catholic School opened in 1941. Although overcrowded during the 1950s, the school functioned until 1961, when a new school building was built. Mid-1960s: Prosecutors said the facility was a multimillion-dollar swindle. Leong Merchants Association Building on April 20, 1988, took $350,000 from a vault. According to Mr. Scully, the Association earned $6 million between 1966 and 1988. Two months later, the US took the building for federal racketeering. Except for a few shops, the first floor was bare. The top floors have faded paint and embellishments. The On Leong Merchants Association Building was designated a Chicago Monument by the Chicago Landmarks Commission on December 1, 1993. Illustrative of Chicago's "Chinese cultural past", The building was sold for $1.4 million to the Chinese Christian Union Church. These days, the Pui Tak Center is used by the CCUC to organize religious, community, and educational events. The Center also helps recent Chinese immigrants. Government funding and private donations provide the Center's $1.5 million annual operating budget. This building's interior had peeling paint, cracking plaster, and inadequate lighting when the Chinese Christian Union Church bought it in 1993. Enclosures, heating and water systems were extensively rebuilt. The CCUC reopened the facility in November 1995.


An American Express/National Trust for Historic Preservation initiative awarded the Pui Tak Center a $100,000 grant. The building started out on top of the five-week online contest with 14% of the vote. It beat out the Robie House, Chicago Cultural Center, and Unity Temple. Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates analyzed the building's eastern and southern faces, focusing on the terra cotta. Engineers employed ultrasonic testing to inspect the terracotta without damaging it. The discovery of significantly cracked or shattered components prompted a report. This report advised masonry and terracotta facade repairs. It will take until early 2010 to complete the renovation. To restore the south tower and parapet, scaffolding has been built on the eastern face. The building's exterior terracotta and clay roof tiles will be totally restored for $2 million.


Pui Tak Center

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