In 1888, a small group of Baptist settlers started meeting in the rented basement of the Belmont Flats on Hamilton Ave. in College Hill. Construction of their new church, St. Paul Baptist Church, started in 1890, on what is now Betts Ave. in West College Hill.
The small frame building was nicknamed “The Little Wooden Church on the Hill.” This is now First Baptist Church, a congregation approximately as old as the neighborhood that surrounds it.
Charles M. Steele, the first mayor of Hartwell and a real estate investor with property in the West End and elsewhere, developed a subdivision here for African American residents and sold the first lots in 1891. In 1907, he opened an adjacent Black-only subdivision.
Per the Hamilton County Auditor, the current building was constructed in 1937, occupying 4 25-foot wide lots of Steele’s Subdivision (lots 6-9). According to the official church history, the auditorium of First Baptist Church was completed in 1943.
Rev. Edward Jones Sr. led the congregation from 1933 until 1998 and was involved in the West College Hill Civic Association during the late 1960s, when the small community underwent Federally funded redevelopment efforts. Around this time, the Sisters of Mercy from McAuley Convent also began community enrichment programs with Jones’ involvement, which included tutoring, homemaking, and arts and crafts.
The congregation is now led by Rev. Charles L. King, Jr. First Baptist Church of West College Hill celebrated 130 years in the community in 2018.