The Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church stands on the southeast corner of N. Vancouver Ave. and Fargo Street. It was originally built in 1909 for the Central Methodist Episcopal Church. Vancouver Avenue (established in 1944) purchased the building in 1951 and inhabits it still. The church was renovated and enlarged in 1957-1958.
The Vancouver Avenue Baptist Church began as the First Baptist Church of Burton Homes, a federal wartime housing project managed by the Vancouver Housing Authority (Washington state). Most of the people in this 1945 photo of an early service were employees of the Kaiser Shipyards. The church moved to the Bagley Downs housing project later that year, then to Vanport City in 1946, and finally to the Albina neighborhood in Portland after Vanport was flooded in 1948. The current building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its significance to the history of civil rights in Oregon.
The collection covers various aspects of the history of the church and of its leader, Rev. O.B. Williams, and his wife Willa Jackson Williams. It includes a variety of photographs, with a large percentage of the images relating to the various church groups, including choirs, youth groups, and ushers. A large collection of members’ memorial cards, the pastoral anniversaries of Rev. Williams, some bibles and hymnals (many annotated by Rev. Williams, including two dated 1867 and 1890), church financial records and meeting minutes, and a collection of materials from Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1961 visit are included. A small collection of the Williams’ personal photographs and ephemera can also be found in collection.
Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church (Portland, Or.)