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Centennial Baptist Church

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Location  Helena, Arkansas
Boundary increase  July 31, 2003
Address  Helena, AR 72342, USA
Added to NRHP  26 March 1987
Built  1905
Designated NHL  July 31, 2003
Opened  1905
Centennial Baptist Church
NRHP Reference #  87000518 (original) 03001044 (increase)
Architectural style  Gothic Revival architecture
Similar  Estevan Hall, Joseph Taylor Robinson, Delta Cultural Center, Helena Bridge, Old State House

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The Centennial Baptist Church is a historic church building at the corner of York and Columbia Streets in Helena, Arkansas. It is significant for its association with Elias Camp Morris (1855-1922), who was the pastor of the church from 1879 and who was a driving force in the establishment of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. Morris served as the Convention's president from 1895 until his death, and his church served functionally as the organization's headquarters. The church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987, and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2003.

Contents

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Description and history

The present church building was designed by Henry James Price, a parishioner of the church, and built in 1895. It is a Gothic Revival structure executed in brick, with its main (western) facade consisting of a pair of towers flanking a large central gable. The main entrances, one in each tower, are in Gothic arched openings, and the first level under the main gable consists of three bays of tripled Gothic lancet windows, separated by buttresses. A round-arch window in the gable is topped at the gable point by an oculus. The roofline of the gable is decorated by corbelled brickwork resembling vergeboard.

Elias Camp Morris assumed the pastorship of the Centennial Church in 1879, then a new congregation. He quickly rose in prominence in Baptist circles, leading the Arkansas Negro Baptist Convention and chairing the board of trustees of Arkansas Baptist College, founded in 1884. He also established a publication, the Baptist Vanguard, in 1882, which became a model for other publications. The National Baptist Convention was formed in the 1886 by the merger of three African-American Baptist church organizations. This body only achieved a united focus in 1895, at a meeting in which Morris was elected its president. The Convention was the largest deliberative body of African-Americans in the nation at the time. Morris was also politically active in Republican Party circles, attending national conventions as a delegate.

The Centennial Baptist Church served as Morris' home base for all of his activities, and grew substantially under his leadership. It is the only building associated with his productive life that is still standing.

References

Centennial Baptist Church Wikipedia


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