September 6, 2012

Oak Park church placed in historic register

The historical significance of Shiloh Baptist Church, with its slanted roof and stained glass, has been made official.

The historical significance of Shiloh Baptist Church, with its slanted roof and stained glass, has been made official.

The church was inducted into the Sacramento Register of Historic and Cultural Resources with a unanimous vote of the City Council Tuesday night.

Situated in a quiet area of Oak Park, the church has been a neighborhood landmark since its completion in 1963. "It's one of the best examples of midcentury modern design," said Roberta Deering, preservation director for the city of Sacramento.

Founded in 1856, the congregation has relocated twice before finding a permanent home at 3565 Ninth Ave.

"We're excited to be recognized by the city," Pastor Anthony Sadler said.

The building was designed by James C. Dodd, Sacramento's first licensed African American architect. Dodd later became a fellow at the American Institute of Architects.

The architecture, designer and history of the congregation made the church a strong candidate for preservation, Deering said.

The diamond-shaped structure took five years to complete, because the church ran into financial hardship, said Sadler, 54. That's when then-Pastor Willie P. Cooke pitched in to finish the project.

"There's no way the building would be up without him," Sadler said. "He led the charge."

From a classic wall radio to the red stained glass, the building is representative of life in the 1960s. Over the years, the church has meticulously preserved its original construction.

Baptisms are still provided once a month in a small baptismal pool overlooking the main sanctuary.

Sadler is a living representation of the tightknit 1,200-strong church community. He started attending church as a 2-year-old.

"We have a long traditional heritage. Generations attend this church together," he said. His parents, children and grandchildren all attend Shiloh Baptist.

Sacramento's historic preservation program traces its roots to 1975, when the country was celebrating its bicentennial.

"People were concerned about vanishing Victorians, about all the historic houses that were being lost," Deering said.

But the original program, she said, served only the central city grid.

Today, the city has thousands of buildings on the Register of Historic and Cultural Resources, after the program expanded beyond the central city in 2001.

The biggest benefit of the designation, Deering said, is the ability to use California's historical building code.

"They don't need to meet the regular building code in order to preserve the historic fabric, but the building must be safe," she said.

In addition to the local honor, Shiloh Baptist Church is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

"The real heart of it is the recognition of the church's service to the community," Sadler said.

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