Washington Avenue Baptist Church is an important African-American historic site that has served the active ministry of its congregation since its construction in 1885. The congregation that worships at this site was organized in 1867. The eastern portion of Jordan Creek Valley, known as East side, served as the core residential neighborhood for Springfield’s African-American population.
Located south of the Midtown National Register Historic District and adjacent to Drury College, Washington Avenue Baptist Church is threatened with demolition by aggressive expansion plans by the college. the Church has agreed to sell the present church complex to Drury College which has indicated its intent to demolish the building. A grassroots campaign was formed to investigate alternatives to demolition. In August 1999, the Landmarks Commission reviewed and endorsed a concept plan recommending a relocation and adaptive reuse of the church as the only means of saving the structure from imminent demolition. Retention of architectural features and a relocation to a nearby site will hopefully enable future National register listing. The College is supportive. Unfortunately, time is running out and funds have not been secured to make the move a reality. Demolition is scheduled for May 2001, affording enough time to begin a serious fundraising effort for the move. A coordinated and energized local preservation effort is needed to ensure that a significant reminder of Springfield’s African American heritage is allowed to continue a ministry of dialogue, healing, and community betterment in the 21st century.