106-Year-Old First Baptist Church Cathedral in High Point, North Carolina to be Demolished

The sanctuary that then-14-year-old Robert Maceo White nervously looked out onto 70 years ago during his trial sermon at the city's oldest African American church building still has those vibrant German handmade stained-glassed windows.
But now First Baptist Church Cathedral's east wall, part of the original structure, is leaning.

The church's bell tower, with its original iron bell, is sinking on one side.

"It's not good," said White, standing outside the 106-year-old landmark building on East Washington Street.

First Baptist had hundreds of members as it nurtured black High Point during the civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s.

It was a community center, where future doctors and business people worshiped as children.

It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

It will be demolished later this month.

Workers already have stripped the pews and carpets. Experts will remove the 100-year-old stained glass in the next few days to be cleaned and stored before demolishing the brick structure at a cost of $76,000.

White and the church's 60 members are looking for a permanent place to worship.

"As a historian, it's going to be difficult for me to walk down that street," said Glenn Chavis, a member of the High Point Preservation Commission.

'Some big problems'
The decision has caused some members of the church -- built in the urban area northeast of downtown -- to leave the church, said the Rev. Michael Robinson, the pastor for nearly three years.

The mounting costs of steadying the structure is out of reach, he said.

"There have been a lot of sleepless nights," he said.

Robinson moved Sunday worship services out of the sanctuary, which has a raised baptismal pool behind the pulpit, and into a local hotel last summer.

Then he canceled Wednesday night services all together.

Robinson still holds office hours in a newer addition behind the sanctuary.

When he was hired, Robinson sought out architects and engineers, who could only suggest temporary fixes.

He consulted with sympathetic construction experts from High Point University.

But no one could guarantee the building wouldn't come crashing down on its own.

"To correct it would cost more than to put up a new building," Robinson said.

Source: News Record | Nancy McLaughlin --- nancy.mclaughlin@news-record.com
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