Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church competing for $150,000 grant

Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church competing for $150,000 grant
The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham is in the running for a $150,000 grant for historic preservation. (contributed)

Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church is among 20 national finalists competing for a $150,000 Partners in Preservation grant.

American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in collaboration with Main Street America, is focusing the annual Partners in Preservation campaign on sites that celebrate diversity and the fight for equality.

Sixteenth Street Baptist Church became a part of civil rights history in 1963 when four little girls were killed by a Ku Klux Klan bombing.

Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham seeking public votes for preservation grant from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

If the church wins, it would use the $150,000 grant to install protective glass on the outside of all the church’s recently restored stained glass windows as well as make repairs to the cupola and twin bell towers.

“Sixteenth Street Baptist Church is a symbol of hope,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. “While it reminds us of a painful past that we must never forget, it also proves how far we’ve come. Through its doors enter people of all colors, classes and backgrounds to experience today’s Birmingham – a place where, despite our differences, we work together. We unite as a city, region and state to support this sacred place.”

Public voting begins today and runs through Oct. 26 to determine the winner of the grant. An individual can vote up to five times daily online at www.16thStreetBaptist.org or by texting “MAINSTREET” to 52886.

“The tragic death of four little girls in the bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church diminished our world in ways that we cannot fathom,” said church pastor the Rev. Arthur Price. “Yet, this terrible act of terror motivated a movement to support the passage of long overdue civil rights changes in our country. Sixteenth Street Baptist Church will always be a place of service, a place of significance and a place of social change. Please help us to preserve it by lifting your voice!”

This is the second year in a row that Birmingham has a project in the running for a Partners in Preservation grant. Last year the Alabama Theatre won a $120,000 grant it put toward installing a  lighted sign on 18th Street.

REV Birmingham, a Main Street America organization, nominated Sixteenth Street Baptist Church for this year’s Partners in Preservation competition and is working with the church to run the voting campaign.

“Not only is Sixteenth Baptist Church an important civil rights landmark, it’s also a beautiful, historic church designed in 1911 by African-American architect Wallace Rayfield,” said David Fleming, REV Birmingham CEO. “Preservation of our city’s unique historic assets is essential to the continued success of Birmingham. This Partners in Preservation opportunity allows everyone, no matter the size of your bank account, to invest in saving a piece of our history – by simply voting.”

Today, the church is a central part of the Civil Rights National Monument designated by the National Park Service last year. The monument includes Bethel Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the A.G. Gaston Motel and portions of the Fourth Avenue Business District.

In addition to being an active, vibrant church, Sixteenth Street Baptist is a popular tourist destination because of its role in history.

Michael Farris from Chicago was among a recent group that toured Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

“I have two young girls at home, so I think about their experiences and how they love serving in our church and just showing up one day to have that taken away from you,” he said. “That’s what really impacted me.”

For more information and to vote daily for Sixteenth Street Baptist Church through Oct. 26, visit www.16thStreetBaptist.org and share via social media using #16thStreetBaptist and #VoteYourMainStreet.

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