Pilgrim Baptist Church
Pilgrim Baptist Church (116 North Birdsell Street) Site of the city's first African American Baptist church, as well as the founding of the South Bend branch of the NAACP.
Backstory and Context
This site once housed Mount Zion Baptist Church, founded in 1890 as the first African American Baptist church in South Bend. Years later, in 1919, the South Bend branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded here.The church grew out of Olivet African Methodist Episcopal Church and was organized under the leadership of the Reverend W.M. Ridley. The Studebaker brothers donated the small wooden frame building to the congregation. The church facility was first located at the intersection of Main and Jefferson streets. In 1891, the church building moved to 116 North Birdsell Street.
In 1921, the foundation for the present sanctuary and basement was started. Shortly after the completion of the building in 1926, the church experienced a financial crisis caused by the Depression, reorganized and in 1935, and officially changed its name to Pilgrim Baptist Church