First Baptist Church of Centralia is now historic landmark

First Baptist Church of Centralia was approved for historic landmark designation during the last Board of Supervisors meeting. The designation had been approved by the Historic Preservation Committee and the Planning Commission prior to being considered by the Board.

The church sits on a hill on the west side of Chester Road north of Centralia Road opposite the railroad tracks.

First Baptist requested that the church, which sits on a one-acre tract requested that the First Baptist Church of Centralia receive historic designation for the Historic First Baptist Church of Centralia.

Dr. Wilson E. B. Shannon and Deaconess Dr. Jane J. Baskerville presented the request to the Board.

After the Civil War, in 1867 Salem Baptist Church provided support to establish Salem African Baptist Church two miles east on Centralia Road. Families of Salem Baptist Church assisted this effort, including Mr. and Mrs. P. A. Chalkley, who granted a one-acre plot of land, and Mr. Benjamin Duval, who donated lumber for the first structure.

The historic one-acre site served as worship grounds for the congregation, who first met under a brush arbor. Soon after, the first church building was constructed and used until 1910. The second church building was erected circa 1910.

According to Chesterfield County Early Architecture and Historic Sites by Jeffrey M. O’Dell, the building is described as including elements of the Gothic Revival, Colonial Revival and shingle styles and was the largest standing church of its period and had a more elaborate exterior than most rural churches. An outdoor baptismal pool circa 1911 sits adjacent to the church and replaced creek baptisms.

Tragically, the 1910 church structure was razed by fire in 1996. The congregation and community were called to action by Pastor Wilson E. B. Shannon to rebuild.

Pastor Shannon told the Supervisors that the day after the historic church burned, God told him he must rebuild.

Within a year, the structure was rebuilt to historic specifications by the members of the church with community support and was dedicated in April 1997.

The congregation meets at a nearby location on Kingsland Road and uses this location for education and celebration purposes.

The church is located in Centralia, one of the earliest suburban developments south of Richmond. It served as a railroad stop and transportation hub to the Chesterfield County Courthouse.


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