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First Baptist Church of Walnut Hills a step closer to landmark designation

The First Baptist Church of Walnut Hills
Nick Swartsell
The First Baptist Church of Walnut Hills.

The home of one of the first Black churches in Walnut Hills could soon get local historic landmark status.

The Cincinnati Planning Commission Friday voted to move forward with local landmark status for the First Baptist Church of Walnut Hills at 2926 Park Avenue.

The church was founded in 1856, meeting in congregants' homes and other church buildings until it raised the money to construct the Park Avenue building in 1908. Its 500-person capacity made it a natural meeting place for local and national African American groups including the NAACP and the 1915 convention for the National Association of Teachers in Colored Schools.

RELATED: Cincinnati City Council rejects historic designation for Evanston's Hoffman School

The grand brick building is one of the few surviving examples of Gothic Revival architecture in Walnut Hills, historic conservationists say. Later additions are also historically significant.

Such sites are important to the region, Cincinnati Preservation Association President Beth Johnson says. Nationally, about 5% of historic designations go to sites due to their significance in Black history. The region lags even further behind.

"In Cincinnati, actually only about 2.5% of our historic designations are associated with Black history," Johnson told the planning commission.

Johnson says the church is well taken care of, but needs upgrades and maintenance. Supporters are also pursuing a national historic designation that could help with grant funding for maintenance and repairs.

RELATED: What does a National Historic designation do for a site?

Cincinnati City Council must approve the local designation before it becomes official.

Nick has reported from a nuclear waste facility in the deserts of New Mexico, the White House press pool, a canoe on the Mill Creek, and even his desk one time.