At nearly 106 years old, Shiloh Baptist Church, located on the corner of Washington and 10th Street in Downtown Alexandria, is one of the oldest structures in the city. Remember, of course, Alexandria was burned to the ground during the Civil War, and ever since then, as our local historic preservationists like to say, we’ve suffered from a “Tear It Down” mentality.
According to one study of Downtown properties, at one point, Alexandria had lost nearly 90% of her historic buildings, due, in no small part, to the construction of Interstate 49. And as Dale Genius at the Louisiana History Museum can attest, many of the buildings we demolished were architectural gems. In what was perhaps a misguided attempt at embracing modernization, we seemed to prefer demolition instead of renovation. When you look at the photos of what we have lost, it’s difficult not to feel a sense of frustration.
Although it may be understated and simplistic, I’ve always liked Shiloh Baptist Church. Notably, if you’re driving north on Interstate 49 and decide to exit into Downtown Alexandria, Shiloh Baptist Church is one of the first things you’ll see; it’s almost like a gateway monument, hugging the street corner, a plain yet eye-catching representation of Alexandria’s history and its architectural themes.
For over 100 years, Shiloh was one of the oldest African-American churches in Central Louisiana. The congregation was actually organized in June of 1882, over twenty years before the current church was built. Today, the building remains vacant and in need of major renovations. After being threatened with demolition earlier this year, thankfully, it was spared from the wrecking ball after a handful of local preservationists took action. There is still much work to do, but like I asked about the dairy barn, what do you think Shiloh could or should become?