The First Baptist Church congregation was organized in 1774 and is the oldest Black Baptist Church in America. The church has a long history of providing social services to the community. It housed the first school for blacks in Petersburg and has provided training for men and women who have become leaders in education, business, and politics. One of the pastors, the Rev. Charles B. W. Gordon, edited The Pilot (later The National Pilot) in the late 1880's, a paper known as the mouthpiece of the Baptists in Virginia. During the Civil Rights era, First Baptist was one of the churches where organizational meetings were held.
The building standing today was constructed in 1870 in the Italianate style, and was remodeled in 1884. The original edifice, located on Harrison Street, was erected several decades earlier, in 1847. As the congregation grew, a new house of worship was dedicated in 1863, but burned in 1866. Decorative iron railings enclose the balcony of the 1870 replacement church. Extensive remodeling was done in 1885, and electric lighting, including the chandelier still in use in the sanctuary, was installed in 1917. The pipe organ, also still in use, was installed in the early 20th century. An adjoining two-story education building was added in 1980.
Geographical and Contact Information
236 Harrison St.