Historical Marker #1657 notes the location and significance of the Zion Baptist Church in Louisville.
A small number of African Americans left the York Street Baptist Church to begin their own congregation in 1877. For a year they rented the old Smith Mills on the corner of Preston and Broadway in Louisville. Finally, on August 8, 1878, this group formally established the Zion Baptist Church.
The congregation quickly grew and required a larger space for worship. Eventually, they found an old church building on Broadway opposite Center Street (now known as Armory Place), which had been used as a carpenter shop and gymnasium.
Membership increased under Reverend W. M. Jamison’s leadership. This swell in numbers allowed the congregation to build a new church in 1882 on Center Street. When Rev. Jamison died in 1893, Reverend W. H. Craighead took over as pastor. His dynamic personality won over many members of Zion Baptist Church and drew many more new members in the doors.
Again, the congregation outgrew their space on Center Street and decided on a new location near Twenty-Second and Walnut Street (now known as Muhammad Ali Blvd). First in use in late 1928, the new space encompassed a large worship auditorium and an education building.
The Zion Baptist Church experienced several pastor changes and building renovations in the years following the location move. In 1964, Reverend A. D. William King, brother of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., became the new pastor for the church. Rev. King fought against urban renewal plans to push African Americans into Louisville’s West End and advocated for open housing.
Even after King left the congregation, the Zion Baptist Church maintained a presence in the Louisville community. The church continued to be led by active pastors like Reverend H. D. Cockerham. In 1978, the historic marker was placed by the Zion Baptist Church as they held their centennial celebrations. Currently, the church still holds services at the Twenty-Second and Muhammad Ali Blvd location.