Pui Tak Center, Chicago

Pui Tak Center, Chicago

In 1912, a substantial number of Chinese residents and business proprietors found themselves displaced from Chicago's downtown South Loop due to new construction projects. In response to this upheaval, the On Leong tong, a "benevolent association", played a pivotal role in the establishment of Chinatown by securing fifty leases in the area for their group members, thus laying the foundation for the future.

Following the relocation, the On Leong association continued its multifaceted activities across various nearby locations, including running a hostel for immigrants, operating a Chinese-language school, and offering services related to business, employment, and matchmaking. However, when it came to constructing their new edifice, informally known as Chinatown's "City Hall", they sought the expertise of Michaelsen & Rognstad. Although the architects were not well-versed in Chinese architectural traditions, they displayed a keen willingness to learn and adapt. Rognstad took charge of the sculptural program, employing terra-cotta as an excellent substitute for the "liu li" glazed ceramic commonly seen in traditional Chinese architecture. While the building's walls are adorned with polychrome terra-cotta motifs, such as flowers, vases, and moths, the entrance is guarded by lion sculptures, their heads cleverly oriented to face outward, avoiding the symbolic act of turning their backs on each other, which would be considered inauspicious.

Today, the Pui Tak Center, with its striking green-and-red pagoda towers, serves as a hub for various religious, community, and educational initiatives, including adult education, youth programs, music instruction, and services catering to new immigrants. The name "Pui Tak" translates to "building character" or "cultivating virtue" in Chinese, reflecting the center's mission within the community.

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Pui Tak Center on Map

Sight Name: Pui Tak Center
Sight Location: Chicago, USA (See walking tours in Chicago)
Sight Type: Attraction/Landmark
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

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