Since its construction in 1893, this Gothic Revival church has been a dominating presence in its neighborhood of small two-story row houses. The first trained African American architect in DC, Calvin T.S. Brent designed various churches, but Third Baptist was the last and is the only extant church that is clearly credited as his work. However, although he worked during segregation, Brent completed a large body of work from 1876 until his death at the age of 45 in 1899, inspiring the next generation of black architects. The only substantial alteration to Brent's design 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. 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 become one of the largest and most influential churches in the city. During Bullock's tenure, the church actively supported 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. Third Baptist distributed aid to people in the surrounding neighborhood who were uprooted by the devastating events following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968. It narrowly averted demolition during the Shaw urban renewal project.
DC Inventory: September 25, 2008
National Register: November 26, 2008