First Baptist Church of Venice
Update: On September 29, 2021, the City Council voted unanimously to designate the First Baptist Church of Venice a Historic-Cultural Monument.
Located at 671-685 and 686-688 East Westminster Avenue are a two-story church building and parking lots significant for their association with early African American settlement patterns in Venice and for their association with the First Baptist Church of Venice, the first African American church in Venice to be financed with monetary and hands-on contributions from congregants.
In November 2020, Councilmember District 11 Mike Bonin made a Council motion to initiate a Historic-Cultural Monument nomination for the property. Save Venice advocates led efforts to preserve the site. Following favorable recommendations from the Cultural Heritage Commission on June 3, 2021 and the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee on September 14, 2021, the City Council voted unanimously to designate the First Baptist Church of Venice a Historic-Cultural Monument on September 29, 2021.
The First Baptist Church of Venice was founded in 1910 and over time outgrew its previous church buildings. Congregants pledged their mortgages to help raise the $250,000 needed to build the Mid-Century Modern style building that stands at 685 East Westminster. The church was dedicated on March 30, 1968 with nearly 700 people in attendance.
The new, larger home for the church demonstrated the collective desire for a community center where residents could gather, worship, socialize, and advocate for shared goals for the neighborhood, and it was the first African American church in Venice to be purpose- built for a particular congregation. As Oakwood and greater Venice experienced significant change over the decades following the church’s construction, the property remained a symbol of security and support for the African American community.
Bishop E.L. Holmes, a significant Oakwood community leader, served as pastor of the church for 44 years. Following his passing in 1999, the City of Los Angeles dedicated the intersection of Westminster Avenue and 7th Avenue, adjacent to the church property, as Bishop E.L. Holmes Square. The church building remained in use until 2017, when it was sold to a private owner and the congregation moved to a new location. The church continues to be a neighborhood anchor for former congregants, residents, and the general public.
The First Baptist Church of Venice and adjacent parking lots located at 671-685 and 686-688 East Westminster Avenue are among the last remaining significant resources associated with the history and development of Oakwood, an early African American neighborhood in Los Angeles. These properties tell the story of pioneering African Americans who created an important center of spiritual, cultural, and social life in Venice. This story has rare representation in the built environment and if designated, will increase representation of African American heritage sites in the City's Historic-Cultural Monument program.
Save Venice advocates led efforts to preserve the site. The Conservancy supported the community-driven efforts to provide supplemental information to strengthen the nomination. The City Council unanimously voted to designate the the First Baptist Church of Venice as a Historic-Cultural Monument in September 2021.
Update: On September 29, 2021, the City Council voted unanimously to designate the First Baptist Church of Venice a Historic-Cultural Monument. Thank you to all who have supported this nomination!
On June 3, 2021, the Cultural Heritage Commission recommended Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) listing of the First Baptist Church of Venice. The nomination now heads to the Council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee. Once a meeting date becomes available, we will provide it here with instructions on how to provide public comment.
You can support the HCM by following Save Venice on IG @ savexvenice to support the community effort to save the First Baptist Church of Venice. For more information go to https://savevenice.ca/campaigns/save-historical-black-church-venice-ca/