Second Missionary Baptist Church

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Second Baptist's official beginning was in 1850 after splitting, like First Baptist of Jacksonville, from the mother church, Bethel Baptist Church, where slaves and their masters worshiped together since the turn of the 19th century. Therefore, the history, development, and accomplishments of Second Baptist are notable parts of the history and story of Jacksonville, Florida. Specifically, the old sanctuary which is adjacent to I-95 between Union and State Streets is a significant historical site to which is seen daily by countless Jacksonville and out-of-town motorists travelling on I-95 or visiting downtown Jacksonville.
 
At the time of incorporation, LaVilla was generally bounded by Clay Street on the east, on the south by McCoy’s Creek, on the west by north Myrtle Ave, and on the north by Kings Rd. LaVilla was a predominantly African American neighborhood that was the central location of major social, civic and church groups in the African American community from its inception until the passage of federal regulations that allowed for choices in hosing, shopping, education, and employment. LaVilla included the Second Missionary Baptist Church and many other influential churches, institutional organizations and business establishments.

 

Originating as part of Bethel Baptist Church, the establishment of Second Missionary began when a few members relocated and organized a new fellowship in 1848, with Reverend Mack Brown presiding as the church’s first pastor. The original church was a wooden structure located on Duval Street near Laura Street. Unfortunately, the original wooden church was destroyed in the Great Fire on May 3, 1901. A replacement wooded structure was built and was located at 1018 Kings Avenue. The first brick structure was completed in 1930 under the leadership of Pastor/Reverend King David Britt. In 1950, a new wing completed the historic edifice.

The design of Second Missionary Baptist Church represents a fine example of a vernacular or folk adaptation of the Late Gothic Revival Style, usually associated with the high style design of major religious or educational institutions. In its high form, the Late Gothic Revival Style is evident by steeply pitched gable roofs usually with intersecting cross gables, varied window treatment including lancet, cantilevered oriels with abundant art glass, ornate window tracery, battlements and towers. Many times the exterior or Gothic Revival Buildings are richly detailed with stone or cast stone trim and clay tile roof. The general effect of the Late Gothic Revival Design as displayed in both high and vernacular adaptations is to achieve a strong presense, to create a sense of permanency, power, and importance all attributes fitting to religious and educational institutions. Elements of the Late Gothic Revival Style reflected in the design of Second Missionary Baptist Church include the massive towers that frame the entryway, the use of arch windows with hood molds, entry way framed with cast stone, as well as the facades divided vertically by buttresses.

With the end of reconstruction and the establishment of state-sanctioned racial segregation, the church became one of the most integral parts of the African American community in the south. In many cases, the church was the most significant social and cultural institution in the community providing important social unity and community organization. Because of segregation, black churches many times were forced to play a larger role in providing needed services, particularly in education and welfare, to their communities. The Second Missionary Baptist Church stands today as a physical testimonial and as an example of the vibrant, historic African American community both in Jacksonville and in the country. Further, the history of this church adds to the rich history of LaVilla as well serves as another link to the dynamics of the African American church as a cultural institution of the past and present.

Second Missionary Baptist Church was constructed and probably designed by noted Jacksonville contractor and designed, James Edward Hutchins. Born November 25, 1890 in Blakeley, Ga, James Edwards Hutchins moved to Jacksonville after completing studies at the Savannah state college. Identified as living and working in Jacksonville Florida as a carpenter as early as 1918, Hutchins was first associated in different capacities with the Dawkins building and supply company except for a few years in the mid 1920’s when he was employed as a porter with the Pullman company.

 

Hutchins is recognized as one of the few African American contractors in Jacksonville that also designed as well as built. As a result, he became a mentor and advisor to many African American builders who sought his counsel and expertise on developing building plans. Shortly after World War II, his construction company coordinated with the Veteran’s administration to provide training for black Veterans, American carpenters, masons, and draftsmen who help build the growing Jacksonville of the 1950’s and 60’s. Hutchins became the first President of the United Craftsmen’s and Builders Association, as well as was a member of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, the Florida State Business League and the National Association of Real Estate Brokers.

A longtime resident of the new town neighborhood of Jacksonville, Hutchins was first married to Luvinia Brown and together they adopted a son, James Edward Hutchins Jr. With the untimely death of his first wife, Hutchins married Mattie Haynes of Walterboro, SC, and together they raised their niece Janie Robinson. Active in his community, Hutchins was a longtime member of St Paul’s AME church, member of the S.H. Coleman Lodge 193, founder of the Gateway Golf Association, as well as one of the owner of the Lincoln Golf and Country Club. Because segregation had limited access to white owned courses, A.L. Lewis, one of the founders and later owner of the Afro American life insurance company, first opened the Lincoln Golf and Country Club in the 1920’s. James E Hutchins died from a sudden illness on May 16, 1970. 

On January 22, 1999, the Florida Department of State Division of Historical Resources determined that the Second Missionary Baptist Church is potentially eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

On December 22, 2014, Second Missionary Baptist Church was officially awarded Historical Landmark designation.

The main purpose of the Historic Preservation Ministry is to take the necessary measure to preserve and restore the Historic Sanctuary. In 2015, the Historic Preservation Ministry applied for and was approved for a Small matching Grant from the Florida Division of Historical Resources. The Project will be done in phases and the first phase is scheduled to begin around July 2016 which includes restoring the 11 stained glass windows that are on the side of the building that is adjacent to I-95. In April 2016, the Historic Preservation Ministry applied for another small matching grant to begin phase 2 of the building restoration which includes restoration of the front entrance doors of the old sanctuary and also the windows above and adjacent to the front entrance doors. In May 2016, the Historic Preservation Ministry applied for a Florida Heritage Marker also through the Division of Historical Resources. We are currently awaiting approval on both the phase 2 small matching grant and also the Florida Heritage Marker. 

Excerpt on James E Hutchins from African American Architects, A Biographical Dictionary, 1865-1945. Edited by Dreck Spurlock Wilson,. Routledge, New York, pp. 218-219, 2004.