Serving as a place for social, political, and intellectual growth—the renovation of the Black House preserved a historic Victorian structure while honoring the rich legacy of African American students and faculty.
In 1968, students at Northwestern University occupied the Bursar’s office to protest for a better campus experience for Black students, including a dedicated space to call their own. Thus, the house at 1914 Sheridan Road was officially designated as the Black House, home of African American Student Affairs and a refuge and social hub for generations of students. The primary goal of the renovation was to preserve the Black House as a safe haven for African American students, faculty, and staff while enhancing accessibility and social connection.
In 2015, the University proposed turning the building into administrative offices—an idea that was met with opposition from the student body. As a result of extensive engagement sessions, the program is organized on a radiating scale from a social, energetic first floor and increasingly shifts towards private, quiet space as one moves up to the second and third floors.
The top floors feature study and meeting rooms, a computer lab, shared multipurpose space for student organizations, offices for African American Student Affairs, and a tranquil prayer/reflection space.
Honoring Black Culture
Environmental graphics and art installations were incorporated throughout the House to represent the history of the Black student experience at Northwestern, including the 1968 sit-in which led to its creation. A custom floating gallery wall spans the length of the grand staircase and various murals and vignettes activate each floor to engage visitors.
Additional prominent artwork includes a replica of an original mural that was created by students in the 1970s and discovered during the demolition process, as well as a canvas showcased in the front living room painted by Northwestern Alumnus, Dwight White II.
The design team preserved and restored existing historic elements of the house to communicate the importance of the structure and its place on Sheridan Avenue. All wood paneling and trim, the large stained-glass window atop the main staircase and the fireplace in the entry lounge were salvaged and reused. The central grand staircase was opened and restored.