I received an email from reader Raquel M. Murphy:
I was on the Southside over the holiday weekend and noticed a church on the corner of 79th and South Chicago. The church looks like it was once a mosque. I also noticed its design was much like the Regal Theater, which is located about a block away. Do you happen to know anything about these beautiful structures? The inlay work on both buildings are gorgeous.
Raquel, thanks for the question. You've spotted two of the city's most unique buildings...and you have made a design connection that I'd never before noticed.
The brick and wildly-colored terra cotta church is the fellowship hall of Haven of Rest Missionary Baptist Church on the southeast corner of 79th and South Chicago. Built in 1928, it features a host of Middle Eastern influences, including a towering minaret. But it began life not as a mosque, but--can you believe?--a fancy restaurant called Raphael's. A little digging through newspaper archives and some lucky breaks during an internet search revealed the building was once a 450-seat eatery with a tea garden, dancing and even a live 11-member orchestra called Raphael's Persians, led by bandleader Herb Zeller.