April 17, 2021

John Warren Moutoussamy – One of Chicago’s Finest High Rising Architects

Once upon a time in Black Entrepreneur History was a man named John Warren Moutoussamy, an established architect out of Illinois who became the 1st African American to build a downtown Chicago high-rise.


Childhood Family and Education

Born on January 5, 1922 in Chicago, Illinois to father Jean Marie Moutoussamy, whose was documented as being a “Negro” born in France and French speaking, becoming a naturalized citizen of the USA after immigrating in 1910.[1] His mother, Julia Amy Walker, was an African American lady from Louisiana.

John Warren was the second oldest of four children. He was the only boy born to the couple[2].

*Note: The 1940 Census documents that John Jr.'s father Jean was born in Louisiana and it also changed the spelling of his name to John instead of Jean. Louisiana could be where he met John Jr.'s mother, Julia. As far as the "Moutoussamy" last name, it is French and mostly found in East Africa and France.
Also, upon Jean's arrival in America, some spelled his name John, an alteration of the birth name spelling.

John Warren was raised with his sisters under a father who worked as a shipping clerk in the steel business while his mother remained at home caring for the children and keeping the house they rented.

By the time John Jr. was 18 years old, he was already enrolled in his first year in college, attending the Illinois Institute of Technology. He finished and graduated in 1948 after learning under Mies van der Rohe, the founder of modernist architecture.

During his studies, he married Elizabeth R. Hunt on March 10, 1942 in Cook County, Chicago, Illinois[3]. They had three children.

Career

John Warren Moutoussamy became the first African American architect to design a Chicago high-rise building – the Johnson Publishing Company – which was designed in the year of 1971. It is here where the headquarters of Ebony and Jet were founded and located, two of the most successful African American magazines. The Johnson Publishing Company, founded by John H. Johnson, an African American businessman, in 1942, is located on the famous Michigan Avenue in Chicago and is now a National Historic Landmark.

Buildings were John Warren Moutoussamy’s specialty, and here are some of the other structures that he designed over the course of his career.

  • Richard J Daley College
  • Olive-Harvey College
  • Harry S. Truman College
  • Chicago Urban League
  • Regents Park Twin Towers

The Regents Park Twin Towers was also one of his more popular designs, consisting of “two 24-story apartment buildings and 54 3 and 4 bedroom townhouses”, located on 35th and 37th Rhodes Avenue with one of the apartment areas complete with a shopping and play area on the ground floor.[4]

John Warren Moutoussamy became partner, in other words, part owner of Dubin Dubin Black & Moutoussamy, an architectural practice. Not only that, but he was on the board of trustees of the Art Institute of Chicago between 1973 to 1995 and Loyola University Chicago between 1979 and 1981.

He became a Fellow AIA which is the highest honor in architecture, earning the Fellow distinction based on his contributions to society and profession as well as architectural excellence. He had also become the Vice Chairman of the Chicago Plan Commission.

Death

John Warren Moutoussamy was pronounced dead on May 5, 1995 in Hammond, Indiana at St. Margaret Hospital due to Cardiopulmonary arrest meaning insufficient amount of blood to reach his heart as a result of Coronary Artery Disease stemming from Familial Hypercholesterolmia which is a disorder that runs in the family causing the body’s cholesterol levels to be abnormally high.[5]

He was buried in St. Mary Cemetery on May 10, 1995 in Evergreen Park, Illinois.

Little Known Facts About John Warren Moutoussamy Jr.

  • He was a tall man – 6 feet and 1 inch tall
  • He was a rather thin young man at the age of 20 when he registered for the WWII draft with a weight of 160[6] (Registration for draft was required)

Sources

[1]Year: 1930; Census Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 0190; FHL microfilm: 2340157

[2]Year: 1940; Census Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Roll: m-t0627-00931; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 103-321

[3]Ancestry.com. Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1930-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.

[4]Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois)· Thu, Jul 1, 1965 · Page14

[5]Indiana Archives and Records Administration; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Death Certificates; Year: 1995; Roll: 08

[6]The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for Illinois, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 1263