The Alexandria Historical & Genealogical Library is raising money to restore the Historic Shiloh Baptist Church.
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The Historic Shiloh Baptist Church at 930 Washington Street is 6174 sq ft, situated directly next to the future City of Alexandria Civil Rights Park, and located within a mile of the childhood home of the famous Harlem Renaissance figure, Arna Bontemps.
The Union Baptist Church of Alexandria was an African American Baptist Church that was established in 1871, but burned down in 1880. Several members of Union Baptist Church began holding services in a small frame building on the same piece of land that the church building sits upon today. In this way, the Shiloh Baptist Church was organized on the 2nd Sunday in June 1882. This historic church was remarkable because it was one of the oldest African American congregations in the area of Alexandria, Louisiana. The first cornerstone was laid in 1890, with a membership of 225, and completed in 1904. The church became very influential, and also hosted programs for a prestigious private school for African Americans that was directly behind the church building called the Central Louisiana Academy. It was said to attract visitors such as Booker T Washington months before his death in 1915, and Dr Boyd in 1918.
Booker T Washington was one of the most influential African Americans at the turn of the 20th century, and still is today. He frequently traveled to speak to communities throughout the US, particularly the South, and made such a trip throughout Louisiana in 1915. He came to Alexandria for such a speech on April 15, 1915. It is said that he visited Shiloh Baptist Church in that time. Washington was well received and welcomed warmly by many.
Dr. Boyd was an influential person in the African American community as well. He suggested that the National Baptist Convention create a publishing house that would not only produce literature for Sunday School, but would also employ hundreds of African Americans. He also became the Vice President of the Negro National Business League, and was granted the degrees of Doctor of Divinity by Guadalupe College in Seguin, Texas and Doctor of Laws by Agricultural College in Huntsville, Alabama. He came to Alexandria for the Annual Colored Sunday School Convention in June 1918. Attending with him was his son, Henry Allen Boyd, the founder of the Nashville Globe. The Globe was a paper for the African American community in Nashville, and used it to invigorate and advertise black-owned businesses. Both father and son did this and much more, and graced Alexandria (and specifically, the Shiloh Baptist Church) with their presence.
The church had 47 members and Armstead M. Newman as the original pastor. Newman was a mixed race preacher who had been born in Tennessee about 1844. He married Lavinia West and is recorded to have lived in New Orleans in 1880, before coming to Alexandria to serve his congregation. On January, 11, 1885, his successor Israel Thomas was ordained and settled as pastor. Israel Thomas was born in Louisiana in 1852, married Britania in 1872, and lived in Alexandria through the late 1800s to early 1900s. Eight years later, the membership of 225 laid the first cornerstone on the 2nd Sunday of June 1890. Deacons included D.M. Michael, M. Johnson, Frank Vaughn, Solomon Leonard, Kelso Johnson, Gen. Anderson, Israel Bennet, and B.M. Cummings.
The church is of the Renaissance Revival style with Romanesque touches. The Renaissance Revival is characterized by bringing the 15th century Italian style elements back and incorporating them with French Renaissance style elements. The Romanesque style was known for its semi-circular arches and Gothic touches. This is evident in the tripartite fashion of the corner tower – utilizing different arches to visually divide the tower into three parts. There are also large arches on each side of the building, underneath the gables.
The congregation moved out of the building in 2006 to a new location. The church building is now vacant and ready to be adapted to any number of uses. Taking on the old Shiloh Baptist Church property may seem daunting at first, but it qualifies for Historic Tax Credits. This means that the work put into renovating it will produce credits back on taxes, allowing for the overall cost to be reduced significantly. It could become a museum, a restaurant, an event space – whatever adventure the new owners want to take on could become easily achievable.
*This property is under contract. The sale is pending.