Mount Zion Baptist Church | Design Workshop
Location: 32 West Carpenter Street | Athens, Ohio USA
Organiation: Citizens' Institute on Rural Design
Mount Zion Baptist Church stands at the intersection of Carpenter and Congress streets in uptown Athens as one of few remaining examples of Black American architecture in Southeastern Ohio. The region was once nationally renowned for Black entrepreneurship, education, and community building. Between 1905 and 1909, a thriving community of free born and formerly enslaved Black Americans built the church as a place of spiritual solace and social connection with the mission to amplify the perspectives and accomplishments of Black Americans. When the Mount Zion Baptist Church of Athens, Ohio disbanded during the early 2000s, a cultural void was left for the Black community of Southeast Ohio. What had previously served as a social and spiritual hub deteriorated into a building no longer fit to serve the needs of the community. In 2013, a group of community members formed the Mt. Zion Baptist Church Preservation Society with the mission of restoring the building, which after decades of neglect had become endangered by mold, foundation damage, and other structural and environmental issues. Today, the Society continues with its mission rooted in spatial and racial justice, the goal of which is to preserve and celebrate the landmark building as a cultural, social and economic asset for the region.
The project supports the preservation, rehabilitation and adaptation of Mt. Zion into a multi-use space devoted to the contributions of the Ohio River Valley Black Communities. CIRD has partnered with the Mt. Zion Preservation Society to create a multi-functional spatial design based on community ideas, with emphasis on re-imagining the historic church as a hub providing social, cultural and economic opportunities for minority residents. The workshop was adapted to a hybrid physical-digital format to accommodate for public health concerns. Work for the project included managing project logistics and communications, organizing meetings, drafting design materials, and collating the final design report.