Antioch Baptist Church, West End Site

The now-vanished sanctuary of a still-vibrant congregation

One of the most prominent churches in Cincinnati’s West End was Antioch Baptist Church, located at 956 W. Ninth Street. The church was designed in 1923 by Wallace Rayfield, who at that time was probably the most famous Black architect in America. The building was torn down in 1963 for “urban renewal.”

Antioch Baptist Church was founded in 1882 by Rev. George W. Wyatt. Gradually, Antioch became one of the largest and most influential Black congregations in Cincinnati. Around 1923, Pastor William H. Williams and the church trustees commissioned architect Wallace Rayfield to design a new facility.

Wallace Rayfield was born in Macon, Georgia, around 1873. After graduating from the Pratt Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn, New York, in 1899, he enrolled in the school of Architecture at Columbia University. While there, he met Booker T. Washington, who offered Rayfield a teaching position at Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama. Rayfield opened a professional office in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1908, and he eventually had branch offices in other cities. Over a twenty-year career, Wallace Rayfield designed thousands of buildings across the United States. He designed many residences and commercial buildings, but churches were his specialty.

Antioch Baptist Church in Cincinnati was completed in 1926 at a cost of more than $225,000, equivalent to a far larger sum today. Attorney William L. Ricks proudly stated that all of the construction work was done by African Americans. One of the main contractors was Samuel Plato of Lexington, Kentucky, a prominent African American builder and architect.

The auditorium and balcony had a seating capacity of two thousand. There were Sunday School classrooms, a social hall, a gymnasium, bathrooms with showers, a library, offices, a dining hall, and a kitchen. The most impressive feature was the exterior. Journalist Wendell Dabney reported,

“At this writing, November, 1925, the building, a beautiful Gothic style of architecture, is nearing completion. It is built of beautiful gray pressed brick, stone and concrete. [T]he five sets of double doors, marking the front entrances, with beautiful white steps, its highly ornamented front, make it a thing of beauty and a joy forever.”

“Forever,” sadly, was not to be. Antioch was a major institution of the West End, and a pillar of the Black community, for more than thirty years. But, in 1962, the City of Cincinnati announced that the church would be demolished for “urban renewal.” An article in the Cincinnati Enquirer in August 1962 stated that the City of Cincinnati had recently “appropriated” Antioch Baptist Church “and other properties for the Kenyon-Barr 1 redevelopment project.”

TheCity of Cincinnati and Antioch Baptist Church needed to agree on the value of the building, so the city filed suit against the church trustees to initiate a process for establishing that value.

In 1964, officials of Antioch Baptist Church laid the cornerstone of a new building at 1511 Gilpin Avenue in Walnut Hills. The new building was dedicated in August 1965. The congregation, now called First Antioch Baptist Church, is today a vibrant organization that emphasizes “Spirit Filled, Holy Living and Community Outreach.”

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Antioch Baptist Church, 956 W. Ninth Street
Antioch Baptist Church, 956 W. Ninth Street Creator: Cincinnati Enquirer, November 7, 1926

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Metadata

Chris Hanlin, “Antioch Baptist Church, West End Site,” Cincinnati Sites and Stories, accessed July 18, 2024, https://stories.cincinnatipreservation.org/items/show/188.