Maurice Cox
General Description:

First Baptist Church, built in 1883, is one of the most significant contributing buildings in the West Main Street Historic District and is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places. The congregation itself predates the building by 15 years, dating back to 1868 when freed slaves founded a separate black Baptist congregation and purchased the Delevan Hotel at the corner of 7th and West Main streets. These historical events make First Baptist Church the oldest continuous presence of a religious institution and its people in the West Main Street corridor. Once the center of a thriving African American community on West Main Street, today the church represents the last remaining African American property owner on the corridor.

From this historical perspective, the First Baptist has recommitted itself to preserving its congregation on West Main Street well into the future. That said, the existing facility no longer meets the needs of the existing congregation nor its desire to expand the mission and reach of the church. The church has received a controversial partial demolition approval for an existing warehouse structure on an adjacent lot. That partial demolition will make room for a new long-span fellowship hall as well as a partially-underground gymnasium stacked sectionally to maximize the opportunities created by the site's front to back slope condition. Other programmatic pieces include new classrooms to be located in the existing church's basement, an exterior courtyard fronting West Main Street, and new facilities for the church's administrative offices. These new fellowship, education, and recreation facilities embody a renewed vision of expanding the presence and opportunities of First Baptist Church not only to its existing congregation, but also to Charlottesville's residents at large.