The Pui Tak Center is located in Chinatown’s only historical landmark. It was designated a landmark by the commission on Chicago Landmarks on December 1, 1993. Constructed from 1926 to 1928, the building was originally built for the On Leong Merchants Association.
At the time, there were no architects of Chinese origin or descent licensed to practice in Illinois, nor were there any standing examples of traditional Chinese architecture in the state.
Architects Michaelsen and Rognstad received the commission for the On Leong Merchants Association Building in the Spring of 1926. Possibly in anticipation of this commision, or in response to it, the firm had in possession a number of books on historical Chinese architecture.
When plans on the On Leong Merchants Association Building were announced in the Chicago Tribune of July 4, 1926, it was called, “One of the most expensive and elaborate buildings ever erected in America by the Chinese.”
The On Leong Merchant Association offered Chinese language school for children, provided assistance to new immigrants, organized activities and celebrations, and established an informal judicial system that settled disputes between its members.
From the Commission on Chicago’s Landmarks’ Staff Summary on the On Leong Merchants Association Building (September 1988).
In 2007, the Pui Tak building was selected as one of 25 historic sites in the Chicagoland area to be a part of the Partners in Preservation program sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and funded by American Express. The initial part of the program invited the public to vote online for their favorite site. The site with the highest vote would be awarded the largest grant in the program.
Through an outpouring of support from the community, our volunteers and other supporters, our building was the highest vote getter and received a grant of $110,000. The grant is being used to preserve the building’s terra cotta facade.