Riverside Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.

Now known as Riverside Baptist Church, this congregation was originally the Fifth Baptist congregation, until the 1902 church was demolished in the 1950s by the Redevelopment Land Agency, along with most of the rest of Southwest D.C. The new building dates from 1967-68. It was designed by Ward & Hall, a Virginia architecture firm still in business today.

It presents a somewhat severe profile on the corner of Seventh and Eye Streets, with its steep gable, stone patterned facade and unadorned stucco wall under a stained glass window. There are two low-slung one-story wings off the front of the parking lot and a side entrance off of 7th Street where the cornerstone is located.

There are a large number of modernist churches immediately nearby, built due to urban renewal. Sadly, some like the striking St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, with a similar steep roofline to Riverside, have been demolished.

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2 Responses to Riverside Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.

  1. What a nice surprise to see our church mentioned in your blog. Just a few comments as regards this architecture (and I’m no architect). Yes, the profile is severe but so is the profile of the pyramids. I reference them, not to suggest by any means an equivalency, of course, but to note the geometric shape of this building in contradistinction to everything around it. The church is alone on a corner and behind it are nondescript rectangles of apartments. Clearly one can see that the church is a triangle and that triangle, like the triangle of a pyramid, juts out from the landscape, capturing the eye and the imagination. Secondly, the triangle is a motif throughout the building hence, as you noted, there is a stained glass window but again, it is a triangle. One only need step into the sanctuary to see how this motif plays out as the wooden pillars that hold the roof form a triangle with the apex of the ceiling and the foundation of the floor so as one stands in our center aisle, one is framed or bookended by those stained glass windows while at the same time echoing through the space are triangles after triangles formed by ceiling, floor, pillars. Hence, a trinitarian form permeates the building inside and out. Whether the architect intended it or not, this is the accomplishment. Finally, I would merely point out that Baptists were iconoclastic so while your post is right to use a word like “severe” to describe the profile, it is also apt to describe this edifice as cleanly simply and eloquent in a minimalist kind of way.
    ~ Pastor Michael Bledsoe

  2. Pingback: Twentieth Anniversary Luncheon Great Success | Riverside Church

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