Designed by Maurice Russel Rhoads in 1921 as the Columbia Heights Christian Church, the Kelsey Temple Church of God In Christ has played a significant role in the development of the Columbia Heights community. The years immediately after World War I were a period of intense development of neighboring residential and commercial blocks, capped by the opening of the nearby Tivoli Theatre in 1924. The influx of residents was accompanied by a wave of church-building. Within five years of its construction, five other architecturally-distinguished churches were built within a few blocks of the Columbia Heights Christian Church. The church’s construction for a recently-formed congregation was also a significant development in the growth of the Disciples of Christ denomination in Washington, DC.
In 1958, the church was purchased by the Temple Church of God in Christ, whose sanctuary at Sixth and H Street SW was demolished during the Southwest urban renewal project. The church is thus associated with a major theme in the development of the District of Columbia; the successful effort of a religious and cultural institution, involuntarily displaced from its historic home in a community destroyed by urban renewal, to maintain its identity, as well as to take root in and influence social life in a new part of the city. The church is also significant for its association with the influential support of the national Church of God in Christ (COGIC), its congregation, and pastor for the local and national civil rights movement. It also has significant association with congregation-sponsored programs that addressed the Columbia Heights neighborhood’s social and spiritual needs in the economically-distressed period of de-urbanization and the aftermath of the civil disorders that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in April 1968. It is further associated with the growth of the Church of God in Christ both nationally and locally as the first of the city’s 30 COGIC congregations.
DC Inventory: March 24, 2016