In October of 2015, First African Baptist Church at 16th and Christian was added to the city’s register of historic locations. In the early 1800’s, this church was founded by freed slaves from Virginia. This current structure was then built in the early 1900’s.
The church has now been purchased by developers who plan to reuse the property, but with no specific plans at this point other than preserving the historic church.
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Nicholas Melisiotis, a developer who recently worked on a redevelopment of the Penn Herb Co. building at 2nd and Spring Garden in Northern Liberties, confirmed that he had purchased the building with two other partners. The group does not yet have specific plans for reusing the property, but has pulled a permit to do maintenance work to make the building safe.
“We don’t have any plans for the church at the moment,” Melisiotis said on Wednesday. “Our primary goal is—we want to save the church, and that was it. We didn’t want to see this part of history go away.”
It was previously reported by The Inquirer that the church’s pastor, Rev. Terrence Griffith sought to get as much as $3.2 million from the sale of this building. Prior to the sale of the building to Melisiotis, Griffith wanted to sell the church to developers who would demolish the building to make way for apartments. Since the church has been added to the historic register, demolition is no longer an option.