The End of an Era for a West End Icon

by Maya Drozdz

photo by Paul Muller

This German gothic-style building at 1556 John St. in the West End was built as Ahavath Achim (“love brothers” in Hebrew) Synagogue in 1865. It was constructed one year before Plum Street Temple downtown, and four years after the Lodge Street Synagogue on Ruth Lyons Way.

In 1906, the building became home to the German Evangelical Lutheran Emmaeus congregation, which added stained glass windows. Revelation Baptist Church, founded in 1921, purchased the building in 1928. The three congregations which called it home over the years serve as a powerful reminder of Cincinnati’s patterns of urban change.

The Revelation Baptist Church acquisition was funded by congregants Melvina and Horrace Sudduth, prominent members of the local African-American community, and probably best known as owners of the Manse Hotel in Walnut Hills, a destination for African-American travelers that was listed in the Negro Motorist Green Book.

From 1961 to 1966, this congregation was led by Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Shuttlesworth was active in the civil rights movement. He organized lunchroom sit-ins, bus boycotts and encouraged African Americans to apply for civil service jobs. His activism earned him frequent beatings and arrests, threats of violence to his family, and a house bombing on Christmas Day in 1956.

Along with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Shuttlesworth was one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a nonprofit, non-sectarian, inter-faith advocacy organization committed to nonviolent action to achieve social, economic and political justice.

While living in Cincinnati, Shuttlesworth joined other black ministers in a successful campaign to make William Lovelace the city’s first African American Municipal Court judge in 1965, and also advocated changing city council elections to increase minority representation. In 1988, he established the Shuttlesworth Housing Foundation to provide low cost housing for the needy. In 2001, President Clinton awarded him the President’s Citizens Medal. Shuttlesworth passed away in 2011.

The final service at this location was held on 29 Mar 2020. As part of the terms of the sale of the building to FC Cincinnati, Revelation Baptist Church has moved into a brand-new, purpose-built facility in Mount Healthy that includes stained glass windows from their previous home.

CPA worked with Cincinnati Councilman Chris Seelbach and other community stakeholders to have this building designated a local landmark, but the efforts were unsuccessful. It was demolished during the last week of May 2020 as part of FC’s Major League Soccer stadium development, scheduled to open in 2021.

photo by Mike Stehlin
photo by Mike Stehlin

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