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First Baptist Church of Asheville - National Fund For Sacred Places
2020 Cohort

First Baptist Church of Asheville

Asheville, North Carolina

Completed in 1927, First Baptist Church was the first notable Asheville, North Carolina, project of architect Douglas Ellington, whose designs helped define the character of the city.

First Baptist Church of Asheville by Courtney Hall

First Baptist Church of Asheville by Courtney Hall

2020 Cohort

First Baptist Church of Asheville

Asheville, North Carolina

Completed in 1927, First Baptist Church was the first notable Asheville, North Carolina, project of architect Douglas Ellington, whose designs helped define the character of the city.

Ellington designed First Baptist Church in the Beaux-Arts style with Art Deco decoration and a dome influenced by Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. The history of First Baptist, originally founded in 1829, is representative of Asheville’s complicated race relations over time. In the 1850s, First Baptist maintained a majority Black congregation, but after the Civil War, white congregants segregated the church for nearly a century. The church integrated in the 1960s and hosted a prominent, televised service of lament following the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.

Today, First Baptist prioritizes inclusivity and addresses the congregation and city’s racist histories through its work. The campus master plan seeks to reconcile the enduring racist legacy of 1960s and 1970s urban renewal through building affordable and workforce housing. First Baptist staff members run the Academy for the Arts, which offers music lessons and performance spaces in the church and sponsors the Asheville Youth Choir, one of the most racially diverse faith-based choirs in the region. First Baptist also provides meals and after-school care for community members facing housing insecurity and participates in extensive community-wide service projects.

A National Fund grant of $250,000 and matching funds of $500,000 raised by the congregation will facilitate the completion of exterior repairs, including restoring terra cotta ornamentation and features of the front portico. This work, part of a full restoration project, will provide the foundation for creative investment into the historic structure’s second century.

First Baptist Church of Asheville by Courtney Hall

First Baptist Church of Asheville by Gloria Sainio

Stories and Media Coverage

Read more about how the National Fund for Sacred Places is helping congregations around the country rehabilitate their sacred places.

Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church by Luis P. Gutierrez