A history of the Thirty-first Street Baptist Church:
— ∮∮∮ —
The roots of Thirty-First Street Baptist Church can be traced back to Fountain Baptist Church, which originally occupied the corner of 31st and O Streets for 24 years. The first edifice was a small chapel built by the parent body under the leadership of the pastor, Reverend H.R. Williams.
In 1899, a much larger building was erected beside the original chapel under the direction of Pastor Williams. He was among few black clergy who traveled abroad. Being inspired by the beautiful cathedrals and European church architecture, he made arrangements to copy the design of a church in England. This English design was used to draw the blueprint for a second building.
Between 1913 and 1915, after separating from Fountain Baptist Church following a disagreement, about 200 members of the congregation, under the leadership of Deacons W.M. Clark, W.H. Hewlett, and H.J. Walker, worshipped in the St. Luke Hall on North 26th Street. Other members remained at the Fountain Baptist Church with Pastor H.R. Williams.
However, the members remaining at Fountain were unable to repay an outstanding debt of $5,000.00. The group worshipping at St. Luke’s Hall was able to purchase the building when it up for auction. They submitted the high bid of $6,005.00. Deacon William Hewlett and wife, Deaconess Lucy Hewlett, mortgaged their home, located on the corner of 31st and “S” Streets, for the congregation to obtain funds to purchase the property in 1915. Pastor Williams and the Fountain Church members moved to a building at 32nd and “P” Streets.
The deed for the newly organized Thirty-first Street Baptist Church was signed on March 20, 1915 by five members named as trustees. They were Henry J. Walker, William Clarke, Joseph Goodman, William H. Hewlett, and William Dandridge. For their incomparable sacrifice, Deacon and Deaconess Hewlett were recognized as the Mother and Father of the church and their pictures were etched in stained glass windows in the original building which was later destroyed in a fire. The first bell was placed in the church’s tower between 1915 and 1917.
In 1922, the edifice underwent extensive exterior and interior renovations. Between 1929-1962, various organizations such as a Gospel Chorus, Junior Missionary Circle, Junior Usher Board, and Willing Workers were organized.
On November 16, 1966, our edifice was destroyed by fire. Our congregation determined not to miss even one Sunday of fellowship together, immediately began to hold worship services in the auditorium of George Mason Elementary School. Prayer services were held in members’ homes.
Ground was broken for our present structure in March 1968. In May 1969, the Thirty-first Street Baptist congregation marched from George Mason School into our newly constructed current brick structure which cost $300,000
In 1977, the steeple of our edifice had to be replaced after it had been blown off during a severe windstorm.
Our congregation held a mortgage burning ceremony during an evening worship service on Monday, May 19, 1980. The service concluded with the choir and congregation joyously singing, “Praise God, from Whom all Blessings Flow.”
Thirty-first Street Baptist Church has had six pastors: Robert C. Williams, 1915-1917; S.P. Robinson, 1918-1926; Isaiah Henry Hines, 1929-1961; Willie M. Davis, 1962-1981; and Darrel Rollins, 1982-2007; Morris G. Henderson, 2008 – present.