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Arlington in Arlington County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

St. John's Baptist Church

 
 
St. John's Baptist Church Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, June 7, 2019
1. St. John's Baptist Church Marker
Inscription.  Founded in 1903, the congregation of St. John's Baptist Church proudly recalls African-American heritage in Arlington County. Some of the early members were emancipated slaves or relatives of emancipated slaves who either lived in slave quarters at the Custis-Lee Mansion (Arlington House) or in Freedmen's Village, a government established temporary settlement that provided transitional housing, employment and training for refugees and freedmen. However, the African Americans who lived there created a much more permanent community. They founded a Baptist church, Old Bell Church, which later was renamed Mt. Zion Baptist Church. In 1874, the congregation moved the church from Freedmen's Village to Nauck in the southern part of present-day Arlington County.

Twenty-nine years later in 1903, with a desire for a different place to worship, 23 men and women of Mt. Zion established St. John's Baptist Church. The following year, the church trustees, Henry L. Holmes, Thornton H. Gray, John W. Worley, Dallas Jones, and Robert Syphax, purchased a tract of land on the Guy Henry estate at the present corner of Columbia Pike and South Scott Street.
St. John's Baptist Church Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, June 7, 2019
2. St. John's Baptist Church Marker
Holmes was a prominent African-American leader who held the position of Arlington's Commissioner of Revenue (1876-1903) and established the Penrose neighborhood. Gray and his wife, Selina, had been slaves at the Custis-Lee Mansion and had a close personal relationship with the lee family. Selina was entrusted with the keys to the mansion after the Lee family fled Northern Virginia.

Unable to construct a new church immediately, the congregation held services at the Odd Fellows Hall on Columbia Pike until sufficient capital was accumulated for construction of a place of worship. A group of church members, along with the first pastor, Rev. Edgar E. Ricks, mortgaged their homes to build the new church. On September 28, 1907, The Washington Post stated that the "Grand Lodge of Colored Odd Fellows" planned to celebrate the laying of the cornerstone of the St. John's Baptist Church the following day. Judge Winston Brooks, a carpenter and a member of the congregation's Board of Deacons, was chosen to erect the church at 1905 Columbia Pike. Born in 1863, Brooks and his wife, Mary Hill, settled in Arlington circa 1890. Brooks completed the Gothic Revival church in 1908.

The original stone church had a side steeple and a steep front gable roof. The steeple featured a louvered lantern containing the belfry, a bracketed wood cornice, a composite shingled roof, and
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a bronze finial. The original walls were covered with pebble-dash stucco. The large pointed arch windows with lancets were typical of Gothic Revival-styled architecture. Parishioners entered a small vestibule via double doors located in the steeple. Church historians suggest that the original configuration of the building consisted of a high-mounted pulpit in the northwest corner with the nave oriented diagonally instead of the typical center aisle plan.

Although the original St. John's Baptist Church building was demolished in 2004, the two-story rear addition dedicated in 1987 was incorporated into the new church building on this site. The present day church was re-dedicated in December 2005. Today, the congregants who worship here at the same site, serve as a reminder of the perseverance and success of Arlington's African-American community.
 
Erected by Arlington County, Virginia.
 
Location. 38° 51.911′ N, 77° 4.638′ W. Marker is in Arlington, Virginia, in Arlington County. Marker is at the intersection of Columbia Pike (Virginia Route 244) and South Scott Street on Columbia Pike. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1905 Columbia Pike, Arlington VA 22204, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Harry W. Gray House (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Arlington Radio Towers
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(approx. 0.2 miles away); Site of Arlington Chapel (approx. 0.3 miles away); Freedman's Village (approx. 0.4 miles away); a different marker also named Freedman’s Village (approx. 0.4 miles away); Fort Craig (approx. 0.4 miles away); American-Armenian Volunteer Memorial (approx. 0.4 miles away); Argonne Cross (approx. half a mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Arlington.
 
Categories. African AmericansArchitectureChurches & Religion
 

More. Search the internet for St. John's Baptist Church.
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 7, 2019. This page originally submitted on June 7, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 33 times since then. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on June 7, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.
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