Built for a congregation founded in 1865, this church, now a National Historic Landmark, was one of the first established by freed men and women after the Civil War. The church was built under the direction of the Reverend Elias Camp Morris, pastor of the church from 1879 to 1922, and Price, a member of the congregation and a self-taught architect. Both men were born into slavery. The red brick church has a broad gable front with a gabled roof that descends nearly to the ground. A large square tower at one side of the facade incorporates an entrance and is balanced at the facade’s other end by a smaller square tower. Between the towers the facade features pointed-arched windows in groups of three, with one large round-arched window in the gable. The interior, with seating for a thousand, features a ceiling of exposed wooden beams, resembling hammer beams. Membership had dwindled by the late twentieth century; the last service was held in 1998, and ownership was turned over to the E. C. Morris Foundation in 2006. The Reverend Morris had been a leading progressive minister, helping found the Arkansas Baptist College, serving as president of the National Baptist Convention for twenty-seven years, and establishing a publishing house.
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Centennial Baptist Church
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