Pilgrim Baptist Church, 732 Central Avenue West, Saint Paul, Minnesota

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Pilgrim Baptist Church

Address: 732 Central Avenue W
Saint Paul, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Year built: 1928
Primary Style: Other
Historic Function: Religious/Place of worship
Current Function: Religious/Place of worship
Material of Exterior Wall Covering: Brick

Saint Paul

Pilgrim Baptist Church, 732 Central Avenue West, Saint Paul, Minnesota
(44.952779° N, 93.131136° WLatitude: 44°57′10.004″N
Longitude: 93°7′52.09″W

The Pilgrim Baptist Church was built in 1928 on a corner site in the Summit-University neighborhood in St. Paul. The foundation of the church in St. Paul dates back to 1863. The Pilgrim Baptist Church is significant because of its wide-ranging role in the social, spiritual and political lives and activities of Black communities in St. Paul and Minneapolis. It is the second oldest African American congregation in Minnesota and the oldest in St. Paul.



The establishment of the Pilgrim Baptist Church in 1863 is most often associated with the Reverend Robert T. Hickman. Hickman and his prayer group - who called themselves 'Pilgrims' - first held services in their own homes in St. Paul and then rented a room in the lodge of the Good Temples. A few years later on November 15, 1866, the Pilgrim Baptist Church was formally organized and the first church was built on a lot sited on Sibley Street. In circa 1886 the first church and site were exchanged for another lot at Cedar Street and Summit Avenue where the second church was built. Eventually the present site was purchased on Central Avenue and the location followed the movement of the Black population from the old city center up to the Rondo neighborhood.

Churches have traditionally played an important role in the African-American community for a number of reasons:
"they have been a forum of freedom of expression in a society that generally denied or ignored minority expression, they have been a major source of educated Black leadership both in and out of the church, they have nurtured the growth of major civil rights and social welfare groups, they have served as a meeting place for other Black organizations and, since the turn of the century, they have reached out into the community with educational and social service support groups."(National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, 'Pilgrim Baptist Church', p.2)

The Pilgrim Baptist Church demonstrates the above in that they were pivotal in the establishment of three major institutions that continue to this day: The St. Paul chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1916, the local chapter of the Urban League in 1923, and the Hallie Q. Brown Center in 1929. Other groups that used the church as a gathering place include the Sterling Club and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

Building Description

The Pilgrim Baptist Church is brick-faced building with white concrete trim. It is designed in a simple, late Romanesque style and has a gable roof with asphalt shingles. The main façade has a gable end and projecting parapet wall. The peak of the gable is topped with a decorative masonry cross which is embedded in the capstone. The central entrance features a three-door entry of double metal doors framed by brick and concrete rounded arches. The detailing of windows is very important in Pilgrim Baptist Church. For example, on the main façade above the entrance arches are five rectangular stained glass windows; above these is a rose window with a cruciform symbol and along the side walls of the church are five bays with rounded stained glass windows. Most unique is the series of stained glass windows in the clerestory that depict symbols of the church and leaders associated with Pilgrim Baptist's history. Figures commemorated in the stained glass windows include: Reverend Hickman – founder of Pilgrim Baptist Church; Reverend Harris who was responsible for erecting the present sanctuary; Reverend Massey, responsible for the adjoining educational wing; Reverend Whitaker, who erected the Housing Plaza; and Dr. Martin Luther King – leader of the Civil Rights movement.

Memories and stories


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