The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) has announced the acquisition of the EBONY Test Kitchen.
A prominent feature of the Johnson Publishing Co. building in Chicago, the iconic, 26-by-13-foot kitchen, which was built in 1972, is where some of the best recipes in Black cuisine were created before being published in EBONY magazine.
Designed by Palm Springs-based interior designers William Raiser and Arthur Elrod of Arthur Elrod Associates, the kitchen is made up of two separate but connected spaces, including “a sitting area, all-electric appliances, wine rack, and display and storage cabinets.”
Described as “Afrocentric modernism,” “psychedelic” and “bold” the kitchen also includes “swirled orange, purple and avocado green wallpaper, and brightly colored cabinets.” The kitchen also had the amenities and appliances that were considered the height of 1970s technology, such as a trash compactor, stovetop grills, and a refrigerator with an ice and water dispenser.
Kevin Young, the Andrew W. Mellon Director of NMAAHC shared his excitement about having the test kitchen in the museum’s collection.
“The EBONY Test Kitchen is a living, breathing testament to the power of Black excellence and innovation in the culinary world,” Young said in a press statement. “The kitchen was a place where recipes were reimagined, flavors were explored and stories were shared—a place that celebrates Black history and culture in a way that was not only inspiring but delicious.”
Originally housed in the Johnson Publishing Co. building, the test kitchen was regarded as a state-of-the-arc construction of the era. The Johnson family sold the building to Columbia College in 2010.
In 2017, after the building was vacant for 10 years, Columbia College sold the building to a developer for residential housing. Eventually, the building became a landmark in Chicago after grassroots efforts saved the building from demolition.
This marks the latest historical acquisition from The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture of the legendary Black media brand. In 2019, it acquired a significant portion of the EBONY and JET photo archive through a transfer of ownership from the Ford, Mellon, and MacArthur Foundations after the group brought the historic image archive at auction.