500 NE 1st Avenue, Miami FL 33132
Central Baptist Church is located at 500 Northeast 1st Avenue and was built in 1925. Central Baptist Church is architecturally significant because it represents an excellent expression of the Neo-Classical style of architecture in downtown Miami. The Central Baptist Church building is also significant for its important historical associations with the city’s religious history. The Central Baptist Church is a four-story masonry building executed in the Neo-Classical style of architecture with elements of the Renaissance Revival. The church building is a symmetrical block of steel and reinforced concrete construction capped by a polygonal rotunda extending above the four-story building.
Central Baptist Church houses Miami’s oldest Baptist congregation and is the third church structure to occupy the same site. Organized two days before the City of Miami came into existence in 1896, the congregation was known as at the First Baptist Church until renamed the Central Baptist Church in 1936. The Baptist Church has served the religious and humanitarian needs of downtown Miami for 90 years, and coincidentally the growth of the Baptist Church closely parallels the development of downtown Miami.
The first church building stood on lots donated by Henry M. Flagler. The first wooden church building was then replaced with a masonry structure on a larger site just a block away, the present site of Central Baptist Church. That masonry structure was demolished in January 1926, at the height of Miami’s Boom, to make way for a larger construction project which was to house a mix of uses. As far back as 1925, the church leaders pondered the idea of keeping the church within downtown Miami.
The present church building was erected at a cost of $500,000. Today, Central Baptist Church remains on of the last three active churches to hold regular services within the downtown central business district. Its vast seating capacity, at upwards of 2,500 people, makes it one of the largest assembly halls in the downtown area as well.
The exterior of Central Baptist Church embodies the distinctive characteristics of the Neo-Classical architectural style, a popular design expression for the 1920s institutional buildings in Miami. The excellence of the building’s design, craftsmanship, and detailed articulation is particularly evident in the treatment of the projection porticos, the distinctive roofline, and the decorative ornament found throughout the interior of the sanctuary.
On January 4, 1989, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.