8th & Center Street Baptist Church
The 8th & Center Streets Baptist Church has had roots in Hannibal since the early 1800s. The church is the principal historical landmark of the African American population in this town, the history reflecting “the aspirations and achievements of this group in the face of slavery and segregation.” The site of the present church also has early associations with Blanche Kelso Bruce (1814-1898), a black leader of national prominence in the post-Civil War period.” Kelso, a slave who escaped from Virginia in 1861, established a school here and taught until 1865. He was the first black man so serve in the United States Senate (1875-1881), and became a distinguished citizen and civic leader in Washington, DC. The site of the present church building was purchased in 1853 by several free people of color. The original church faced 8th Street where the current parsonage (1903) sits. A new church was built ca.1872 and remains in use. This substantial building is constructed in the Romanesque Revival style popular at the time. The several stained glass windows in the Church reflect the support of the many African American social and fraternal organizations that came together to build this center of black religious life. Today the church is threatened by declining membership and the means to properly maintain the historic buildings located here. It is hoped that this listing will publicize the plight of this important historic site and result in increased visibility and encouraging both financial and volunteer investment in the 8th & Center Streets Baptist Church.