16th Street Baptist Church
Created in 1905, the church's founding came as over 40 members of the First Baptist Church disbanded and formed their own Baptist Church. Members, led by A.D. Lewis, a prominent black preacher and advocate of community outreach, focused much of their time to help build up the local black community they served.
Backstory and Context
Forty-one members separated from the First Baptist Church to establish a new church in Huntington. The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was created in 1905 with the original structure located on Sixteenth Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. Prior to the church’s final organization, a council of area ministers was created to provide guidance to the leadership of the future church. Included in this council was Reverend Nelson Barnett, then pastor of the Second Baptist Church in Guyandotte. The first church building was constructed by early 1906. The present building of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was constructed circa 1924 during the guidance of Reverend Albert D. (A. D.) Lewis. Reverend Lewis served as pastor to the church from 1915 to 1927.
The church was renamed the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and Community Center while under the leadership of Reverend Miles M. Fisher in the late 1920s. The name change represented the congregation’s outreach programs into the community at large. The parsonage, designed by Carl Barnett, was constructed next door to the church while Dr. J. C. Mitchell served as pastor between 1933 and his death in 1970. The son of Carter H. and Caroline “Callie” Barnett, Carl Barnett received a degree in architectural engineering in 1918 from Ohio State University and earned the third license issued to an African American to practice architecture in West Virginia in 1924. While Carl Barnett designed larger buildings his specialty was residential architecture. Between 1975 and 1978 Sixteenth Street Baptist Church began a nursery and a bus ministry for seniors. Renovations to the interior of the church took place in the late 1980s and early 1990s including new heat and air conditioning equipment and lowering the ceiling of the sanctuary.
The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church is significant locally in the black community as an early African American religious institution in Huntington and for its outreach efforts to both the neighborhood and the city at large. The leadership provided by the church, especially the long tenure of Reverend A. D. Lewis, significantly impacted the African American experience in the city and continues to the present day. It was during A. D. Lewis’s ministry that the current impressive building was constructed in the mid-1920s. During the Great Depression the congregation added the term “Community Center” to the church’s name to express the physical and spiritual programs offered to the neighborhood’s residents. The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church continues to be an important African American religious institution in Huntington.