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Roanoke, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

The Influence of Churches in Gainsboro

 
 
The Influence of Churches in Gainsboro Marker image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, October 3, 2019
1. The Influence of Churches in Gainsboro Marker
Inscription.  In addition to religious activities, the churches in Northeast and Northwest were instrumental in providing community leadership, childhood education, and information on public and social issues. By 1900, there were nine black churches in the area, and many more would follow. Four of the earliest churches are still active in the community.

The Big Lick Colored Baptist Church was established in 1867, developing out of Bible study classes for black residents taught by Dr. Charles Cocke, founder of Hollins College. Later known as the First Baptist Church (Colored), the congregation bought a lot and built a new structure in 1898. The Roanoke Times reported that the new building "impresses the visitor as being the handsomest colored church in the city." One of the longest-serving ministers of the church was Reverend A.L. James. Pastor for over thirty years, James also served on the Library Committee, the Burrell Memorial Hospital Association board, and was Vice President of the Negro Organization Society of Virginia, an organization that promoted community self-improvement for African-Americans during the Jim Crow era. He founded,
Marker detail: Reverend A. L. James (left)<br>1808 First Baptist Church (right) image. Click for full size.
Courtesy of Norfolk Southern & Virginia Department of Historic Resources
2. Marker detail: Reverend A. L. James (left)
1808 First Baptist Church (right)
edited and published The Church News, the only black newspaper in Southwest Virginia at the time. In 1982, the church built a new sanctuary; the old church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places until it was destroyed by fire in 1995.

St. Paul Methodist Church moved in the early 1880s to a church on the corner of Henry and High Streets, in a building that was once home to Greene Memorial Methodist Church (which had relocated to downtown). After 35 years on Henry Street, the church moved to its current location on Fifth Street, in the former St. James Methodist Episcopal Church. The entire congregation celebrated the move in a procession from the old church to their new one. Like many church ministers of the day, St. Paul's Reverend D. W. Harth served in many capacities, including as principal of the Gainsboro School and as a practicing attorney.

The original Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church (constructed in 1898) featured a stained-glass window dedicated to Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. The window was designed in 1906 by Reverend Lylburn Downing, the church pastor; it honors Jackson's legacy of teaching Sunday school to blacks, including Downing’s parents, in Lexington, Virginia. When the original church burned in the 1950s, the congregation built a new church at the same location (Patton Avenue, which was formerly Fifth Avenue).
Marker detail: St. Paul United Methodist Church image. Click for full size.
3. Marker detail: St. Paul United Methodist Church
Built in 1898, the St. Paul United Methodist Church sanctuary at the corner of Fifth Street and Gilmer Avenue was once home to St. James Methodist Episcopal Church. The St. Paul congregation purchased the building in 1915.
The window was salvaged from the burned structure and is the centerpiece of the new sanctuary.

Reverend Downing served as the pastor of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church for over forty years, until his death in 1937. He was a probation officer, supervisor of a home for delinquent youths, served on the Library Committee and was a member of various social organizations. For twenty years, he was the only black member of the Roanoke Republican Committee.

Park Street Baptist was established in 1892 by five members who met in a building on Park Street (now Fifth Street). Four years later, the congregation built a new structure at the corner of McDowell and Peach Road, and changed the name of the church to Hill Street Baptist. The church was remodeled and expanded in the mid-1900s, but was later demolished during urban renewal efforts of the 1970s. In 1980, the congregation built a new church in the neighborhood on Madison Avenue, where they continue to worship.
 
Location. 37° 16.535′ N, 79° 56.382′ W. Marker is in Roanoke, Virginia. Marker is on Wells Avenue Northeast east of North Jefferson Street, on the left when traveling east. Marker is located in a small sidewalk plaza on the north side of Wells Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Roanoke VA 24016, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A Once-Vibrant African American Community
Marker detail: Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church image. Click for full size.
4. Marker detail: Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church
Window memorializing Stonewall Jackson at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church (left). The original Fifth Avenue Presbyterian sanctuary, lost to fire in the 1950s. (right)
(here, next to this marker); Social and Cultural Life (here, next to this marker); From Frontier to Urban Community... A Gainsboro Prelude (here, next to this marker); Evolution of a Neighborhood Name (here, next to this marker); Milestones in Education (here, next to this marker); Health Care and Medicine (a few steps from this marker); Civil Rights Trailblazers (a few steps from this marker); Hotel Roanoke (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Roanoke.
 
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Gainesborough • Big Lick • Roanoke
 
Categories. African AmericansChurches & Religion
 
Marker detail: Hill Street Baptist Church image. Click for full size.
5. Marker detail: Hill Street Baptist Church
1902 view of the first edifice of Hill Street Baptist Church, at the corner of McDowell and Peach Road.
Marker detail: 1919 map indicates at least 18 churches located throughout the neighborhood image. Click for full size.
6. Marker detail: 1919 map indicates at least 18 churches located throughout the neighborhood
The Influence of Churches in Gainsboro Marker • <i>wide view<br>(marker visible on left side)</i> image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, October 3, 2019
7. The Influence of Churches in Gainsboro Marker • wide view
(marker visible on left side)
 

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Credits. This page was last revised on November 30, 2019. This page originally submitted on November 27, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 36 times since then and 2 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on November 28, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.   2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on November 29, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.
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