16th Street Baptist Church is located on Sixth Avenue North in Birmingham, Alabama and is approximately a seven minute drive from Birmingham Airport. The church campus is open for tours 10am to 4pm Tuesday to Friday and 10am to 1pm by appointment only on Saturdays. It is a largely African American Baptist Church that was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2006 and is still in operation now with regular services held here.
This was the first black church to organize in Birmingham with meetings initially held in a small building at 12th Street and Fourth Avenue North. A new site was later acquired on 3rd Avenue North but in 1880, the church sold the property and built a new church on the present site on 16th Street and 6th Avenue North, which was completed in 1884. However, the city condemned the structure in 1908 and placed an order for it to be demolished.
The current building was designed by a prominent black architect, Wallace Rayfield taking influences from the Roman and Byzantine styles with construction completed in 1911. The church served as an important meeting point for the civil rights movement in the 1960s with Martin Luther King, Jr. among several notable speakers here. In 1963 the church was bombed by the Ku Klux Klan, killing four young girls.
The church reopened for services in June 1964 after receiving more than $300,000 to restore it, and now visitors will be able to see a shrine in the crypt where the girls died, which is dedicated to their memory. Located in the rear center of the church at the balcony level is a vibrant stained glass window with the image of a black crucified Christ, which was a special memorial gift from the people of Wales and designed by John Petts.Tours of the church are led by guides with a presentation given about the history including the bombing as well as an interesting video.
While in the area visitors may like to stop by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in 16th Street, which is a museum remembering the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. Just a couple of hundred meters from the church and the museum is Kelly Ingram Park, which has many sculptures based on the civil rights movement including one of Martin Luther King Jr. There are many places nearby serving food including Green Acres Cafe, Brannon's Public House and Pete's Famous Hot Dogs, all of which are less than a kilometer from the church.
For those visitors wishing to stay in Birmingham overnight or longer, there are a number of hotels near to 16th Street Baptist Church. Less than one kilometre away is Kings Inn situated on 3rd Avenue North and Hampton Inn & Suites, which is located on Park Place North. Other hotels nearby include Redmont Hotel, The Sheraton and Courtyard by Marriott, which are all within one and a half kilometers of the church.
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