Four new trail markers are coming to the Springfield-Greene County African-American Trail.
The new markers will tell those on the trail about four African-American churches that formed the core of the religious community in Springfield along with Alberta’s Hotel and Lincoln School. The markers are expected to be in place by early summer.
The city of Springfield provided the following information on the new markers:
Church Square North
During slavery, some slaves met in secrecy to worship in the woods along Jordan Creek (formerly Wilson’s Creek).
In the north area bounded by Central, Benton, Washington Avenue and Brower Street (currently Bob Barker Boulevard), the Benton Avenue African Methodist Episcopalian Church (AME) was organized in 1872. In 1926, the current two-story brick building was completed.
Washington Avenue Baptist Church, organized in 1867 as a mission by members of the white congregation of the First Baptist Church, was called Second Baptist Church (Colored). The church was renamed Washington Avenue Baptist Church to remove two stigmas: the use of the term “colored,” and eliminating Second Baptist Churches as inferior “offshoots” of First Baptist Churches. The church was later moved 300 feet north on Washington Avenue so that Drury University could build a new science center. The church is now the Drury University Diversity Center.
Church Square South
The southern area of the historic Church Quadrangle includes Pitts Chapel United Methodist Church, built in 1865 after an arsonist torched the log cabin church along Jordan Creek.
The other church is Gibson Chapel at Tampa and Washington Avenue, which was formed as the First Negro Cumberland Presbyterian Church in 1865 by a former slave, the Rev. Peter Lair.
The community hospital for the black community was remodeled by Ms. Alberta Ellis to include rooms for paying guests; a large dining room, a rumpus room, beauty salon, barbershop and snack bar. The hotel, staffed by family members, was located three blocks north of historic Route 66. Alberta’s Hotel was listed in The Negro Travelers’ Green Book beginning in 1954. Over the years, Route 66 travelers from across the United States and other countries stayed at Alberta’s Hotel.
The Rosenwald Foundation in 1930 issued a grant to pay for a new school for Springfield’s Negro students and a two-story redbrick school was dedicated on May 21, 1931. When it opened, teachers led students in a parade on Central Street to the New Lincoln School. Once there, students sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The new school had 15 rooms, including a gymnasium, mechanical arts shop, domestic science room and a library. Lincoln School, described in the local newspaper as “one of the best equipped Negro schools in the state,” was a community school. Teachers, administrators and parents sponsored scout troops; a community library and child care center; as well as held dances, plays, concerts, talent contests and fashion shows. When Springfield public schools integrated, Lincoln School became a junior high school and is now Lincoln Hall on the Ozarks Technical Community College campus.