Editor's note: This is the 53rd in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington landmarks.
HUNTINGTON -- The 20th Street Baptist Church was founded March 14, 1892, with a membership of about 400. However, its history actually stretches back to 1888 when the Fifth Avenue Baptist Church founded a mission Sunday school in a small frame building on the corner of 20th Street and College Avenue.
In 1892, the growing mission congregation became an organized church and officially adopted the name "20th Street Baptist Church." It continued to add members and soon outgrew its small building. So in 1895 it built a new red brick
structure at 20th Street and 5th Avenue.
But by the 1920s, wear and tear had left the church building in such sad shape the city building inspector actually slapped a "Condemned" sign on it. So the building was demolished, and the congregation temporarily worshipped at nearby Holderby School while they drew up plans for a handsome new house of worship to be built at the same site.
The new church was dedicated on Dec. 12, 1926, and declared debt-free at a combination Thanksgiving and victory service on Nov. 25, 1945. In the 1950s, a new three-story Sunday school building was constructed on the west side of the church.
In the 1950s, the church had more than 800 active members. But like many old-line churches it suffered a sharp decline in membership in recent years. In the early 1990s, the 300-member congregation began thinking about moving to a smaller building, with more parking and better accessibility for the handicapped.
In 1996, when Marshall University approached the church with an offer to buy the building, the congregation agreed to sell. Ultimately, Marshall demolished the building and used the site for construction of its new Recreation Center. Meanwhile, the members of 20th Street Baptist and Beverly Hills Baptist merged to form the New Baptist Church, which worships at the former Tri-State Ice Arena at 5th Avenue and 28th Street.
To read more articles from this series, go to www.herald-dispatch.com. Click on "News," then "Lost Huntington" series.