Our beginnings took root in 1864 when Reverend Henry Bailey and 10 Christian followers founded and built our Mother Church – then called Fourth Baptist Church – in an area known as Hell’s Bottom.
The ground on which the Shaw community now stands had been open farmland until shortly before the Civil War. During the war, several barracks were built on the site. The barracks also were used as contraband camps,” sheltering former slaves who had either escaped from nearby Virginia and Maryland or had been “confiscated” by the Union Army, along with other destitute freedmen. From 1862 to 1863, approximately 4,000 freedmen were housed at Camp Barker, directly across the street from the current site of Metropolitan Baptist Church. Reverend Bailey ministered to them and their families as he began our journey truly from Hell’s Bottom.
As the Civil War came to a conclusion, Fourth Baptist Church was experiencing a momentous event in its own history – the establishment of its first building. Members initially had held their services in the old barracks on R Street between Twelfth and Thirteenth streets, but in 1865 the church purchased “two good lots of land” on R Street and immediately commenced to erect a frame building for church purposes.
Did you know that…
- During the Civil War several Civil War barracks were located in and around this neighborhood. One particular barrack was called McClellan’s Barracks (a.k.a. Camp Barker). Camp Barker was located between 12th and 13th Streets, NW and between Q and R Streets, NW. (Directly across the street from the present site of our church)
- Camp Barker, the initial location of the Freedman’s Hospital (now known as Howard University Hospital), was a collection of tents and barracks in an open field on 12th and R Streets.
- In 1864, in the midst of one of the District of Columbia’s then over-crowded, impoverished, crime infested, alley communities (a.k.a. Hell’s Bottom), God inspired ten souls including the Rev. Henry Bailey, to found what was then called the Fourth Baptist Church. Initially, worship meetings were held in the tents located across the street from Camp Barker.
- In 1865 these dedicated souls, with their limited financial means, purchased two lots of land across the street from Camp Barker for $2,500.00 and set out to build a house dedicated to worship God. They later changed their name to Metropolitan Baptist Church).
Information provided by the Metropolitan Baptist Church Historical Book Committee