Virginia Room Digital Collection


The Virginia Room Digital Collection includes photographs, oral histories, books, pamphlets and finding aids to items in the Virginia Room. Continue to check back for new additions.

GB58 First Baptist Church Gainsboro, interior


GB058 First Baptist Church Gainsboro, Interior.jpg

Dublin Core


GB58 First Baptist Church Gainsboro, interior


First Baptist Church Gainsboro can trace its origins back to September 30, 1867, when a small congregation held service, led by Rev. Edmond Johnson, in a dwelling on Hart Avenue, establishing the Big Lick Colored Baptist Church. As membership increased, the congregation moved several times until, in 1876, they purchased the old brick St. John’s Episcopal Church at Big Lick. In the mid-1890s, trustees of the Big Lick Colored Baptist Church, then known as the First Baptist Church, Colored, purchased land on the corner of Gilmer Avenue and Jefferson Street. Under the leadership of Rev. Richard R. Jones, the church began efforts to build a new place of worship, finally laying a cornerstone and breaking ground in 1898. The Gothic brick sanctuary with an imposing gable façade tower was designed by architect Henry Harwell Huggins and was dedicated on May 6, 1900. By the time Rev. Richard Jones’ retirement in 1904, most of the church’s construction debt was repaid. Over the following years the congregation, led by Rev. E. E. Ricks, raised funds to place pews in the gallery and match a financial gift from Andrew Carnegie to install a pipe organ. From 1918 to 1957, Rev. Arthur L. James was pastor. Notably, he began the first daily vacation bible school in the city; presided over the Helping Hands Club and the Men’s Club, who were responsible for publication of The Church News, which was reported to be the only black newspaper in Southwest Virginia at the time; and began a weekly radio broadcast, the Black Home Devotional Hour, with the help of the church’s senior choir. From 1959 to 1966, the church was under the leadership of Rev. E. L. Green, who in addition to serving the congregation was a member of two biracial committees that were credited with aiding the integration of public facilities in Roanoke. Rev. David Lee Collins was the pastor from 1968 to 1970, followed by Rev. Kenneth B. Wright from 1973 to 2015. Wright led the congregation to build a new sanctuary a block to the west and south of the original church on Wells Avenue and Jefferson Street. The new building was completed in 1982. In 1995 the original sanctuary on Gilmer Avenue and Jefferson Street was destroyed by fire.


Roanoke Public Libraries




Gainsboro Branch of Roanoke Public Libraries


Please contact the Virginia Room at 540.853.2540 for permission to use.





Still Image Item Type Metadata

Original Format



“GB58 First Baptist Church Gainsboro, interior,” Virginia Room Digital Collection, accessed February 23, 2024,