Mt. Pilgrim African Baptist Church

Visitor Information

Alice Street & Clara Street
Milton, Florida 32570

Completed in 1916, the Mt. Pilgrim African Baptist Church was designed by Wallace A. Rayfield, who is widely recognized as America’s second formally trained African American architect. Rayfield designed hundreds of structures throughout the South prior to the Great Depression, among them hotels, theaters, barns, schools, residences, fraternal buildings, one of the country’s first black-owned banks, and many churches. His buildings were backdrops for the civil rights movement of the 1960s; in some cases, they became synonymous with the struggle.

Born in Georgia in 1873, Wallace Rayfield was a gifted draftsman who graduated from Howard University and received architecture degrees from both Pratt Polytechnic Institute and Columbia University. Booker T. Washington, director of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama, recruited Rayfield to become an instructor of mechanical and architectural drawing. Rayfield worked alongside Robert Taylor, credited as the country’s first trained black architect. Rayfield also made his first foray into printing, with Industrial Drawing Book, a textbook meant to bring a degree of professionalism to the young school.

After leaving Tuskegee and opening his own architecture practice in Birmingham in 1908, Rayfield began designing and printing advertisements, newsletters, and plan books to reach a wider audience, while at the same time masking his racial identity. Rayfield’s efforts to build a practice paid off. He designed more than 300 buildings for clients in nearly 20 states, including Illinois, Texas, and Maryland, and in the African country of Liberia. More than 130 structures were built in Birmingham alone. He became the Superintending Architect for the Freedmen’s Aid Society and chief architect of the A.M.E. Zion Churches of America. He was also a community leader, supporting African Americans through a marketing newsletter called The Colored Mechanics of Birmingham, in which he promoted the skills of local black contractors. Some of his residential projects became the first to be designed, financed, and built by blacks.

For more information

Ward, Logan. “Rediscovering Mr. Rayfield.” Preservation (January/February 2011).

Durough, Allen. The Architectural Legacy of Wallace A. Rayfield. The University of Alabama Press, 2010.