Historic Photos of the 1921 Groundbreaking for Columbia Heights National Baptist Memorial Church

The National Baptist Memorial Church at 16th Street and Columbia Road.

The National Baptist Memorial Church at 16th Street and Columbia Road.

Recently I found three photos showing the groundbreaking ceremonies for the National Baptist Memorial Church located at Columbia Road and 16th Street, NW. I’ve often admired the building and am pleased that it is not only a landmark structure but also within the recently designated Meridian Hill Historic District.

Construction of the church began in 1921 with a groundbreaking ceremony on April 23rd (93 years ago today). The ceremony was attended by several hundred persons with the honor of turning the first spadeful of earth given to President Harding.

“The event was marked by a ceremony that was solemn, impressive, and brief” according to The Sunday Star.

SCAN0058(Looking south with Columbia Road in the background. Photo from author’s collection.)

President Harding made no speech at the event, but in speaking to the officials of the ceremonies, The Washington Post reported that Harding said “We can not have too many monuments to religious liberty and we can not have too much religion in this land.”

Harding used a brand new spade, tied with red, white and blue ribbons in turning out a neat square of ground. With accuracy and precision he marked the four corners of the square with the spade, dug it out with a single stroke and with another placed it in the toy express wagon of 8-year-old Gove Griffith Johnson, jr. the son of Rev. Gove Griffith Johnson, pastor of the Immanuel Baptist Church which was incorporated into the new church upon completion. The boy then presented the President with a bouquet of flowers from the members of the church. President Harding, after greeting the officials, returned to the White House.

Below are two more images of the ceremonies from the Library of Congress collection.

Harding Groundbreaking 1

Harding Groundbreaking 2

 

Explore posts in the same categories: Churches, Historic Landmarks, History

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One Comment on “Historic Photos of the 1921 Groundbreaking for Columbia Heights National Baptist Memorial Church”


  1. […] On April 23rd, I posted an account of the ground breaking ceremony for the National Baptist Memorial¬†Church on 16th Street that happened to occur on the same date in 1921. Surprisingly, I’ve just found a related photo to the construction of the church … showing the April 22, 1922 corner stone ceremony. You can see that photo below. […]


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