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Amherstburg First Baptist Church National Historic Site of Canada

232 George St, Amherstburg, Ontario, N9V, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2012/06/26

Amherstburg First Baptish Church exterior; Parks Canada, Jennifer Cousineau
Amherstburg First Baptish Church
Amherstburg First Baptist Church; Parks Canada, J. Cousineau
Amherstburg First Baptist Church
Interior of Amherstburg First Baptist Church; Parks Canada, J. Cousineau
Interior of Amherstburg First Baptist Church

Other Name(s)

Amherstburg First Baptist Church
Amherstburg First Baptist Church National Historic Site of Canada
Église de la First Baptist Church d’Amherstburg

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1848/01/01 to 1849/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2013/03/13

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Amherstburg First Baptist Church National Historic Site of Canada is located in a residential street in the town of Amherstburg, in southwestern Ontario. Set on a small, flat lot this modestly sized wooden church features a gable roof, pointed arch windows, a gabled vestibule, and a rear addition. Built in 1848-49, it is typical of auditory churches built by Black settlers in this period of settlement. The modest scale is in keeping with surrounding housing stock. The designation refers to the building on its footprint.

Heritage Value

Amherstburg First Baptist Church was designated a national historic site of Canada in 2012 because:
-it was a principal Underground Railroad-related Black church in Upper Canada with a strategic location on the international border between Upper Canada and the United States;
-its simple, compact auditory form and the early addition of specialized architectural features such as the baptismal pool offered a fitting spiritual home for thousands of Black Baptists. The building was important in the everyday lives of congregants and to the development of a distinctive Black Baptist church tradition in Ontario;
-as the Mother Church of the Amherstburg Regular Missionary Baptist Association it played a crucial role in the development of Black communities and identity in Ontario by founding an organization within which people of African descent could pursue their ambitions, develop their talents, and assume positions of leadership at a time when they were denied these opportunities elsewhere.

The First Baptist Church was built in 1848-49. From its inception, the First Baptist Church was associated with the flight from slavery and, later, the Underground Railroad. It was also the Mother Church of the Amherstburg Regular Missionary Baptist Association, one of the most important Black organizations in Canada West, later Ontario. The First Baptist Church was central to the establishment and development of the Black Baptist church tradition in Ontario. As the material expression of the practices and the beliefs of the early Black Baptists who settled in the region, it made visible what some historians have called "the invisible institution," in reference to the black church in North America under slavery.

Amherstburg First Baptist Church was constructed mostly by its Baptist congregants after a four year fund-raising period. The charismatic Pastor/Elder Anthony Binga had recognized the need for a purpose built structure to house his growing congregation. The neighbourhood, developed in the 1830s and 40s at the same time as the church was constructed, was a mixed neighbourhood with a significant population of newly settled Black people. Many were refugees from American slavery with later arrivals often travelling via the Underground Railway. Built in what was then the back ranges of Amherstburg the neighbourhood was further away from the Detroit River. This may have been influenced by the fear of slave catchers from the United States. The simple massing and modest scale is typical of the churches built by black settlers and other Protestant groups. The church was designed so that the entire congregation could see and hear the preacher. The simple, uncluttered auditory-hall form of the interior is a feature of many of the churches established by communities linked to the Underground Railroad in Canada.

Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, July 2011

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements that contribute to the heritage value of this site include:
- the location on a residential street;
- the setting within an older neighbourhood of Amherstburg;
- the timber-frame construction covered with wood siding;
- the single-storey rectangular massing under a gable roof with the west end gable facing the street:
- the pointed arch (lancet) windows, three on each of the side elevations;
- the vestibule’s pointed arch windows and centrally placed entry door set under a lancet shaped fanlight;
- the clear and simple design of the open auditory hall plan, and the ceiling rising to the full height of the
roof;
- surviving evidence of original interior finishes and trim, and the angled barrel vaulted wooden ceiling.

Recognition

Jurisdiction

Federal

Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date

2012/06/26

Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

n/a

Theme - Category and Type

Building Social and Community Life
Religious Institutions

Function - Category and Type

Current

Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Religious Facility or Place of Worship

Historic

Architect / Designer

n/a

Builder

n/a

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier

13291

Status

Published

Related Places

n/a

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