The places where significant African American history happened have been unrecognized for the important role they play in the fabric of Loveland society. Black history is our Loveland history. Though Loveland is rich in diverse history, our community pride has been absent when representing that history and in funding its protection.
by David Miller
I made a proposal to City Hall in 2017 in the video below, with a vision of how the historic Predestinarian Baptist Church on Chestnut Street in the West Loveland Historic District could be restored. The vision received much support at the time, however, was not realized. In the last month, there has been a buzz around the community and beyond to revisit perspectives about the church’s future.
Loveland taxpayers own the 120 plus-year-old church. City hall acquired the church for back taxes, assessments, and liens owed on the property. The Predestinarian Baptist Church is located in the heart of what was the African-American residential neighborhood of Loveland. Cobb’s Grocery Store, a center of business and social exchange, was located nearby.
The historic Loveland landmark is at the end of Chestnut Street, behind the Loveland Artists Studios on Main Street and one block from the Loveland Post Office. The street address is 225 Chestnut Street.
The plan was to restore this cultural asset that holds exceptional cultural value for Loveland.
We’ve got to make sure our children know how they got here, and what this descendant community did to make a more excellent life for us all and how these earliest residents might inspire future ones.
The struggle over the physical local record is part of a larger, long-overdue national movement to preserve African-American history. We can absorb a revolutionary spirit of the era, their ideas of independence that were never meant for them in what was then a segregated community not of north vs south, but East and West divided by the Little Miami River.
Elizabeth Alexander, a poet and Mellon Foundation’s president, says, “That for a long time communities of color have had to ‘carry around knowledge and stories in our bodies,’ because resources were not devoted to preserving the spaces that held those stories.”
The depiction you will see in this video will not now happen, however, perhaps another appropriate “adaptive reuse” of the church that respects and reflects its cultural significance to our community will become a viable means of its preservation. What plan can come forward and be approved that will lead to an afterlife?
The building is currently being vandalized by the benign neglect of its owners and caretaker – us taxpayers and City Hall. There should be taken immediate and urgent steps to secure the historic site from any further ravages of weather and intruders – human, and rodents.
What do you think it means to preserve it. Perhaps it means Loveland will experience as Brent Leggs phrases it in the New Yorker article The Fight to Preserve African-American History, a “powerful collision of culture, heritage, and public space”
Can we think in terms of the audacity – the bold risk of the arc of history and centuries? Do we need this place?
To paraphrase a question Leggs asks, “Can the Predestinarian Baptist Church on Chestnut Street be a place where the truth of history is told, visitors reflect, and where reconciliation and new history can happen.”
Can it be our predestination?
FOR MORE BACKGROUND ABOUT PAST EFFORTS TO SAVE THE CHURCH FROM BULLDOZERS READ THESE ARCHIVED STORIES FROM LOVELAND MAGAZINE