The origins of the Park View Christian Church lie in a multi-denominational Sunday school that was established for the instruction of children in this formerly rural section of the District. Area residents organized as the “Whitney Avenue Union Mission Association”. The Sunday school, a subsequent sewing circle, and other groups met in the brick chapel the association built in 1877.
Twenty-two years later, as the neighborhood began to urbanize, the Mission Association concluded that it should expand its mission to hold regular services for adults, but recognized that the chapel would have to be placed under the aegis of a single denomination, rather than an interdenominational board of laymen. They decided that the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), whose name signaled its interest in Christian (i.e., Protestant) unity, would take over the chapel, and it was renamed the Whitney Avenue Christian Church, still the only religious building in the new Park View subdivision.
With the residential growth of the neighborhood, the old chapel was soon too small to serve the congregation, and in 1905 the members constructed Kimmel Memorial Hall, named for the first pastor, as a rear addition. Kimmel Hall served as Sunday school, gymnasium, drill hall, and meeting room.
With the construction of Kimmel Hall, the church became more a community gathering place than ever. In early 1908, residents and property owners met there to form a citizens’ association to lobby the District Commissioners for neighborhood improvements. The inaugural meeting was chaired by the church’s pastor, Rev. Walter H. Smith, and 31 residents joined and elected a five-member board. The Park View Citizens’ Association continued to meet in the church for eight years, over that time securing for that section extensive road and sidewalk paving, police call boxes, the undergrounding of telephone lines, better refuse and streetcar services, and ultimately, its own elementary school. With the construction of the Park View School in 1916, the Citizens’ Association moved its meetings there.
In 1920, the church’s congregation again decided to expand and modernize, demolishing the 1877 chapel and adding to the rear of the 1905 Kimmel Hall. The Park View Christian Church relocated to Eastern Avenue in Shepherd Park in 1945 and sold the property to Trinity A.M.E. Zion Church. In addition to being an old congregation and a representative of one of the oldest African-American denominations, Trinity was the site of an important experiment in the War on Poverty, a pilot of a Great Society program that is still with us. Project Head Start, a child-development program for disadvantaged preschool children, officially began in the summer of 1965, but was not approved by Congress as a year-round program until the following year. Yet, in the autumn of 1964, the concepts that would be employed in Head Start were tested on a limited, local basis. The 1964 Economic Opportunity Act had established a Community Action Program that worked through designated, local “community action agencies.” The District of Columbia’s community action agency, the United Planning Organization, launched an experimental model-preschool program in the Cardozo area, with the cooperation of the public schools. But the program was also instituted at five churches, including Trinity A.M.E., which was located across the street from the relatively new Park Morton public housing project. Trinity’s childcare center would be considered the model for all of the District’s Head Start centers. At the time of the nationwide roll-out of Head Start in summer 1965, Lady Bird Johnson visited Trinity to witness the program at work.
DC designation June 26, 2014
National Register listing December 29, 2014