Third Baptist Church

It is the most important surviving work of architect Calvin T. S. Brent, the first African American in Washington trained as a professional architect and the first to support himself solely by his architectural practice.

Since its construction in 1893, this Gothic Revival church has long been a dominant presence in its neighborhood of small two-story row houses. Though operating within the arena of segregation, Brent was able to accomplish a large body of work from 1876 until his death at the age of 45 in 1899, inspiring the next generation of black architects. Third Baptist was the last of his churches, and the only one clearly credited as his work to survive in intact condition.The builder was Edward Winslow. The only substantial alteration to the building occurred in 1919 when the church added a new choir loft, organ loft, and baptismal pool designed by African-American architect Isaiah T. Hatton.

As one of the oldest and most active African American congregations in Washington (organized in 1858), Third Baptist strove to advance the political and educational rights of African Americans during eras of great hostility. Although Third Baptist did not include the oldest and wealthiest black families, it shared many of the concerns of the city’s most elite black churches. It was committed to temperance and education and was willing to work with sympathetic white churches. Under the 41-year pastorate of Reverend George O. Bullock from 1918 to 1959, Third Baptist grew to one of the largest and most influential churches in the city. During his tenure, the church was active in supporting the work of organizations like the NAACP and Negro National Educational Congress by organizing mass meetings, seeking voting rights, and pushing for desegregation of the public schools and armed forces. During the turbulent period of the 1960s, Third Baptist played an important role in distributing aid to people in the neighborhood uprooted by the devastating riots of 1968, and it narrowly averted demolition of its building for the Shaw urban renewal project.

DC Inventory: September 25, 2008
National Register: November 26, 2008

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1546 5th Street, NW