Selma Baptist Church
- 8,632 square feet
- Zoning: Transitional
, Regional Director
Preservation NC, Piedmont Office
Stately Gothic Revival-style church on a prominent corner in the Downtown Selma Historic District; located in an Opportunity Zone!
The Selma Baptist Church is a cross-gabled Gothic Revival-style building completed in 1908, situated on a prominent corner in the Selma Downtown Historic District. This stately masonry structure features a bell tower entrance, tall pointed arch windows, and buttresses with rusticated stone details on the exterior. The interior is a large open sanctuary with gallery loft embellished with Classical details. A three-story office and classroom building was added in 1948. The church is eligible for historic tax credits and is located in an Opportunity Zone.
Architectural and Historical Information
This grand edifice was the second structure built by the Baptist congregation, the earliest to be established in the Town in 1872. Their first pastor, Dr. W.M. Wingate, was President of Wake Forest College and oversaw the construction of their first church building in 1875 several blocks southeast of the present building. The current lot was purchased in 1905 and the present building was finished three years later. The building was sold to the Free Spirit Missionary Baptist congregation in 1990.
The exterior of the Selma Baptist Church displays impressive Gothic Revival features including a high pitch roof, corner bell tower entrance, buttresses with rusticated stone details, and tall pointed arch windows. Some original tracery remains in an upper tower lancet window. The austere exterior gives way to a lighter, more Classical interior. Inside the main entrance is a foyer lit by pointed arch transoms above the doors, an Ecclesiastical Gothic chandelier, and pressed metal ceiling. A paneled staircase with turned banisters and sturdy railing and newel posts leads to the upper gallery.
The main sanctuary is a large open space with full height ceiling embellished with pressed metal shingles and intersecting rooflines creating a cross pattern. On the tower entrance foyer side are two room sections beneath the gallery. Opposite the gallery and on the street elevation are a trio of pointed arch windows that bathe the interior with light. The pulpit is situated on a raised platform and displays Classical elements such as full height engaged fluted pilasters atop paneled wainscot. In the center is an alcove topped with a broken pediment. Doors on either side of the raised pulpit area lead to a lateral hallway to the pastor’s office, restrooms, and exit doors.
A three-story addition was constructed in the late 1940s creating office, gathering and classroom spaces. Stairs to the second and third floors are located directly behind the pulpit area in the lateral hallway. A small partial basement accessed through an exterior door behind the building holds the mechanical systems. The building has a standing seam roof. The property has access to natural gas and is on city electric and water/sewer lines.
Damage caused by a 2014 fire in the third floor of the classroom building was repaired. The building will require a complete rehabilitation including updates to electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems, drainage repair to address flooding in the basement, window repair and water damage and leaks in the tower. As a contributing structure in the National Register Historic District, the property is eligible for tax credits and is located in an Opportunity Zone.
The Selma Baptist Church was constructed at the dawn of the 20th century during a period of prosperity brought on by the convergence of the North Carolina Railroad (1855) and the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad (1886) making Selma an important rail junction. Today, the Town of Selma continues to be at the crossroads of major transportation corridors including Interstate 95 to the east, US301/Pollock Street through town and adjacent to the church, and US70 to the west. It is a reasonable 32-mile commute to Raleigh.