Thanks to discussions with local historian Elaine Buck, we have assembled the story of the Second Calvary Baptist Church in Hopewell.
The Church that we know was built in 1959, and is the anchor of the eastern end of Columbia Avenue at the corner of Maple Street. But, as we have come to expect with Hopewell history, the story is more complex and even convoluted – including an older church and graveyard, and changing and abandoned roads.
This information comes from sources including Church history, historic maps, research reports, and newspaper articles. However, we do not currently have historic photographs or Church documents – so we are very interested in additional information and materials.
== View the full Brief on the Second Calvary Baptist Church (PDF) ==
The original Church was built around 1897 on First Street, at the corner of what was then Maple Street. Originally known as The First Colored Calvary Church of Hopewell, the Church was organized in September 1897, incorporated in August 1898, and formally recognized in October 1898. The change to the current name followed, as the church was also known as the “second Baptist church at Hopewell.”
The First Street property is still owned by the Church, and contains a small graveyard associated with the original building. This First Street Cemetery contains some 12 known gravesites and 10-12 unknown and unmarked graves.
The location, “on the corner of Maple,” also takes some explaining. Before Princeton Avenue was constructed around 1870, the original route south from Hopewell through Mount Rose to Princeton actually started from East Broad Street, came down what is now Maple Avenue, continued all the way down to what is now First Street, and then jogged west on First Street, to finally continue south on the Hopewell-Princeton Road.
With the construction of Princeton Avenue (then called Union Avenue) as a straight path out of town, the southern part of Maple Avenue was effectively abandoned over time, so that Maple now ends at East Prospect Street. The diagonal line of Maple still is visible in the property lines, and the original Church property is on the NW corner of the First and Maple intersection.
To further the confusion, older maps can variously show a full grid of the planned streets from Princeton to Elm and East Broad to First, or can show parts of the roads, since south Maple was abandoned, and neither Second and First Streets ever extended to Elm (they now both end in cul-de-sacs).
The Church celebrated paying off its mortgage in 1903 in a ceremonial burning (“Real Fire Will Be Used In Services” headlined the Hopewell Herald, which also reported that this was “the only negro Baptist church in the state free of incumbrance.”)
The papers from the 1940s report a variety of combined Hopewell church activities, including a joint Community Vacation Church School, and a joint May Fellowship Day celebrated by the Calvary Baptist Church, Methodist Church, Second Calvary Baptist Church, and the Dutch Reformed Church of Blawenburg.
In 1959 the congregation moved three blocks up Maple Street, where the current Church was built at 69 Columbia Avenue, on the SE corner of Columbia and Maple.
The original Church building on First Street was then abandoned, and was burned down in 1962 in a controlled fire by the Hopewell Fire Department, along with a second dilapidated home across from the Highland Cemetery.
Again, we do not currently have historic photographs or documents on the Second Calvary Baptist Church – and so would greatly appreciate any additional information and materials .