For more than a century and a half, the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Jackson Ward has been a Richmond landmark. A daughter congregation of First African Baptist, Ebenezer was formed in 1857 and initially named Third African Baptist Church. In 1858, a committee formed by Dr. Robert Ryland was instructed to find a location for a new church. Committee meetings were held at 227 W. Leigh Street, the home of Mr. John Adams, a resident of the Jackson Ward Community. During one meeting, Mr. Benjamin Harris, a committee member, told of a vision he had experienced in which a man with outstretched arms appeared on a body of water (the location of the future church) and said: "I have chosen this spot from the foundation of the world as the place for the fishing of men's souls". It was decided that the site illustrated by Mr. Harris' "vision" would be the location of the new church.
This new church was dedicated in 1858 as Ebenezer Baptist Church, located at the intersection of Leigh and Judah Streets in Richmond, Virginia. As Richmond prepared for the onset of the Civil War, Ebenezer served the African-American community in many ways, continuing to do so through Reconstruction.
In 1866, Richmond's first public school for African-American children began in the church's basement. In 1883, Hartshorn Memorial College, the first college for African-American women, was organized and the first classes were held in the church basement. The church has maintained its legacy of education and leadership to the present day.
Designed as a frame structure in 1858, the church remained relativity unchanged for fifteen years. In 1873, a brick Gothic structure replaced the original frame structure. In the middle of the depression of the 1870's, Ebenezer installed the first organ in an African-American church in Richmond, whose pipes were used as a backdrop for the baptismal font and pulpit. In 1915, the church's architecture was changed from Victorian Gothic to Neoclassical style. The truncated steeple tower was replaced by a cupola with four small spires, and the entrance was changed to create a transitional stair from the sanctuary level to the sidewalk through a classical portico. These features remain visible today.
Geographical and Contact Information
216 West Leigh Street