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National Register of Historic Places Program

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.


Property Name Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church
Reference Number 16000604
State OR
County Multnomah
Town Portland
Street Address 3138 N. Vancouver Ave.
Multiple Property Submission Name N/A
Status Listed 9/6/2016
Link to full file
The Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church of Portland, Oregon, is a prominent ethnic landmark located at the southeast corner of Vancouver Avenue and Fargo Street. For more than 72 years, the church has endured as an important pairing of faith and community service in the Albina neighborhood of Portland. The church is one of the oldest mid-twentieth century African American congregations established in Portland, launched in 1944 in the housing projects in Vancouver, Washington. It was the fifth African American Baptist Church organized in Portland, and for many years maintained the status of having the largest membership of any African-American church founded in Portland and the Pacific Northwest. Throughout its history, the church has played an important spiritual and civic role in the urban center. It is where a grassroots movement of likeminded people from the post-war era came together in support of inclusion and community. As a local foundation, the church contributed to galvanizing social and political action by bringing people together from all walks of life, by creating social bonds when social conditions made efforts difficult and even dangerous. The church itself was all important in motivating people of color during the local Civil Rights movement by actively engaging a populous individually and collectively, by confronting the prevailing political powers within the city, the state and throughout the region. Its structure, culture and its ecumenical platform of education were all fundamental to helping a community sustain the protest actions with few resources and little permanent power. It was also a spiritual refuge for the countless men and women who devoted their lives to the cause of change. The stories of this church are of real men and women of different faiths, backgrounds and cultures reaching out to reconcile with others.The Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A, in the areas Social History and Ethnic Heritage/Black, for its role in changing the lives of its congregation through its promotion of improved social conditions in the post-war and Civil Rights eras. It is also eligible under Criterion B, in the area of Ethnic Heritage/Black, for its association with the Dr. Reverend O.B. Williams and his wife Willia Ida Williams. Reverend Williams was an early founder of the church and grew its membership and influence dramatically. Over nearly fifty years of leadership, Reverent Williams, along with his wife, made a significant difference in the lives of the congregation and ultimately in the social consciousness of the city of Portland across racial lines. The property is significant at the state level, for the church's leadership role, which played out at the city, state, and national levels.

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Properties are listed in the National Register of Historic Places under four criteria: A, B, C, and D. For information on what these criterion are and how they are applied, please see our Bulletin on How to Apply the National Register Criteria