Oscar Stanton De Priest was born on March 9, 1871, in Alabama. He moved to Chicago in 1889, where he owned a real estate business. He was elected Chicago’s Cook County Board of Commissioners from 1904 to 1908, and in 1929, he was elected as the 71st U.S. Representative 1st Congressional District. On January 20th, preservationists., elected officials, and residents of Bronzeville unveiled the preservation of Chicago’s first black alderman and civil rights leader, Oscar Stanton De Priest’s former home located at 4536-4538 S. King Drive. De Priest bought the building fand lived there from 1929 until his death in 1951.
In 2012, Kimberly Echols inherited the building from her late mother, Barbara Echols, who purchased the building on April 25, 1994. Growing up, Echols’ mother instilled in her the value of and respect for maintaining their home. Echols watched her mom work tirelessly to preserve the historic building. When her mother became terminally ill, Echols spent time with her mother reviewing tasks to prepare her to take over this huge responsibility.
Landmarks Illinois was awarded the $250,000 grant from the National Parks Service African American Civil Rights Grant Program in 2017 to begin restoration of exterior masonry repairs and roof replacement of the100-year-old eight flat building. Work at the landmark residence was completed by the end of 2019.
“It is important to me because just as the building was home to the De Priest family, it became the home for many of my family members,” Echols says. “My mother had a strong sense of family. She loved her family. She was thinking about her family when she chose the building. She loved celebrating the anniversary of the day she purchased the building, April 25th, 1994.”
Echols believes that preserving legacy property in the community is a sign that attempts to preserve and maintain our history are being made. “My mother was my best friend, and it is important to me that I honor her and preserve her legacy,” says Echols.
The Oscar Stanton De Priest House is a National Historic Landmark and Chicago Tribute Markers of Distinction.