Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mount Gilead Baptist Church: Architect W A Rayfield

I became interested in locating work about African American architect W. A. Rayfield while on a scavenger hunt for information about Mound Bayou College.  Rayfield graduated from Howard University in 1896 and from Columbia University in 1899, with his degree in architecture.  He taught for 10 years at Tuskegee before moving to Birmingham in 1908 to begin his practice.  He designed thousands of buildings in the US, but most are in the southeastern region.  He designed the Trinity Building in South Africa, although I cannot locate any additional information about that building either.

While reviewing the list of the many buildings attributed to Mr. Rayfield, I noted the Mount Gilead Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas.  Several times a month for 7 years, I drove past this building in downtown Ft. Worth as I was heading home from my doctoral studies.  I would often take a little detour through downtown to break the monotony of the drive, or to stop for some quick shopping or a bite to eat.  I thought it the most beautiful and inspiring building and can still picture it--standing on a little hill above the street as the road split right in front of the church.  Somewhere in my photographs, I have a picture of the church, taken in the days of the 35 mm and paper pictures, but I've neither the time nor the energy to comb through them right now.

A black and white image of the church is available through the link below:
 Hinsdale & Bryant. [Mount Gilead Baptist Church], Photograph, n.d.; digital image, (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth38218 : accessed March 06, 2011), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting University of Texas at Arlington Libraries, Arlington, Texas.

A 2009 color photograph can be seen here.

Although I had thought that the church was slated for demolition back in the late 90s, due to road improvements, happily, that is not the case.  Mount Gilead is listed along with several significant buildings in a major preservation project of the city, as they attempt to preserve the historic buildings while still enabling growth and development.  From the Ft. Worth city website, the following gives additional information about this beautiful and historic work:

"Mount Gilead Baptist Church (1912 - 2003)
Founded in 1875, Mount Gilead is the oldest African-American Baptist church in Fort Worth.The congregationmet in at least two previously locations before constructing this building at 600 Grove Street.Designed by William [sic] A. Rayfield, a black architect, the structure is in a Neoclassical style.Its outstanding features are the front portico with six non-fluted columns, pedimented gables, and simple exterior moldings, all characteristic of Greek Revival architecture, although other features such as the semi-circular arched windows suggest Romanesque influence. Mount Gilead has been called the “Mother” of all African-American churches in Tarrant County."

NOTE:  The architect's name is Wallace Augustus Rayfield.

If you find yourself in Ft. Worth, take the time to detour from the Interstate and check out this building; it's worth the time.  Then, when you finish, go eat at Joe T. Garcia's, but take cash, because they don't take credit cards. 

No comments: