By Edith Kelman
Archival records reveal that as early as 1874, African American neighbors founded the Antioch East Baptist Church on what is now Candler Park Drive (old Mayson Ave. North), in Candler Park, Atlanta (DeKalb County). Pioneering Black residents of the area established the Mayson Subdivision of homeowners, who developed nine acres (of the current public park property) into a thriving community.
Shown at right: In this 1948 photo, members of the Antioch East Baptist Church gather on the steps of the granite Sanctuary they hand-built circa 1920. Holes from stones and golf balls mar the stained glass windows two years before the congregation was "edged out" of this Old Stone Church by an increasingly intolerant Candler Park neighborhood.
Maps and deeds of the area dating from the late1800s help define the picture of a growing African American working class neighborhood in and around today’s Candler Park. With this early Black neighborhood as our focus, the Early Edgewood-Candler Park BiRacial History Project has anchored our living history collaboration with the surviving Elders and their descendants, and what may be the only remaining African American legacy-structure still standing in Candler Park, the Old Stone Church at 470 Candler Park Drive.
The Old Stone Church at 470 Candler Park Drive may be the only remaining African American legacy community-structure still standing in Candler Park today. This historic sanctuary is the anchor for the Early Edgewood-Candler Park BiRacial History Project, a five-year collaborative community effort based in original research, historic documents, and personal narratives. The Project has been compiling, creating and presenting educational materials to help restore a truth-based awareness of the forgotten legacy of post-Civil War African American pioneers in the evolution of Candler Park.
The Old Stone Church was hand-built by members of the Antioch East Baptist Church, between 1918 and 1922, after their 1890s wooden church burned to the ground in 1916, one year after the resurgence of the local KuKluxKlan. The forces of racism accelerated over time until, in 1950, Antioch East could no longer maintain a viable presence in the Candler Park neighborhood. The congregation moved from the stone church to a new location “south of the railroad tracks,” in modern Edgewood. The years following, until 1977, found the Old Stone Church in the hands of the “caucasian only” Candler Park Improvement Corporation, a.k.a. Candler Park (Men’s) Civic Club. Since 1980, the Old Stone Church has been under the stewardship of the First Existentialist Congregation of Atlanta, a Unitarian Universalist-affiliated spiritual community dedicated to principles of human liberation, diversity and mutual respect.
Shown at right: Six generations of the 1870s pioneer Latimore Family are represented in this photo at the unveiling of 2 African American Legacy Markers inside Candler Park in May 2010.
We encourage your participation, along with Antioch East Baptist Church, First Existentialist Congregation, our schools and community partners, and Edgewood and Candler Park neighbors. Together, we are building bridges for truth as we unveil hidden dimensions of our local history. This collaborative work offers us a respectful way to better understand our interconnected roles in the legacy and future of our Atlanta community.
Edith Kelman, Project Manager