1957 Church Survey: Redeemer Italian Baptist Church

In 1957 there was as survey of churches in the Northwest Urban Renewal Area, which included Shaw, Downtown, and the area near Union Station. One of the churches was Redeemer Italian Baptist Church . To learn more about the 1957 Church Survey read my previous posts, The Uniqueness of the 1957 Church Survey and Church Survey Northwest Urban Renewal Area October 1957.

photo of propertyRedeemer was a mystery. It was this odd ethnic Italian Baptist church in a largely Black neighborhood. I’d been told, by the owner of Catania Bakery that there was a decent sized Italian population in Truxton Circle. They are no more. I have no idea where they went or how many were here in the first place.

So I will do something new. I will look at the land records.

Redeemer Italian Baptist Church was at 1200 Kirby St NW, sitting on Square 555, lots 62 and 63. In 1923 the trustees of Chiesa Del Redentore Italian Baptist, Leonardo Dell Erba, Olindo Marseglia, and Pasquale Vasco took out a loan of $10,000 from the Perpetual Building Association, a lender that did a lot of business in Truxton Circle. The debit was settled in 1943. In 1964 the church sold the property to New Birth Baptist Church.

According to a website regarding corporations, Redeemer Italian Baptist Church of Washington, DC dissolved in 1967. As I have learned from Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s History of the Negro Church (yes, this is an Italian church), individual Baptist churches can be rather independent entities. As you will see below from the survey, most of the church’s parishioners lived in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. So it would be a fair guess the enthusiasm and spirit that supported the church in the 1920s, was long gone in 1967.

CS-10-Redeemer Italian Baptist Church by Mm Inshaw on Scribd

So let’s look at the state of the church in 1957.

It was a small church with only 125 people, ethnic Italians, most of whom did not live in the city, and none in the area, which included what is now known as Downtown, Swampoodle, Mt. Vernon Sq/Triangle, and Shaw. With 40% of the congregation being under the age of 18, I’d say this was a commuter church of sizable Italian families…. who were not Catholic…. because this is a Baptist church and there is a  difference. A normal Sunday would have 60-65 people in attendance. Those families were mostly middle/blue-collar as 30% were white collar and 55% were skilled manual labor, think carpenters, plumbers and machinists.

From the 10/11/1920 Evening Star page 28

The church was founded in 1915 on 48th Avenue NE as a storefront church. From 1919-1923 it met at the Scottish Rite Cathedral. Looking around in the Evening Star, they were at 3rd and E Streets NW in 1922. In 1920 they started building the church that sits at 1200 Kirby NW.

In the 1957 has the pastor as the Rev. Olindo Marsaglia (Olindo Marseglia is on the loan docs) and the founding of the 1200 Kirby St NW church was Rev. MC Marseglia. This, and this is just me guessing, smells like a family business.  Let’s wander back to our Woodson, remember Baptist churches are independent of each other with little to no hierarchical body over them. So Rev. Olindo Marseglia died in 1966,  and the church dissolved in 1967. So it makes sense, when looking at it as a Marseglia family venture it went away when the last interested Marseglia died.

Rev. MC Marseglia from the 1920 article appears to have been the Rev. Domenico Costantino “Mimi” Marseglia. According to his Find a Grave write up, “Rev Domenico ‘Mimi’ was pastor at the Federal Hill Italian Baptist Mission in Providence, RI. The Euclid Ave Baptist Church in Cleveland, OH. As well as the Church of the Redeemer in Washington, D.C.” Also poking around I found an obit for the daughter of one of the trustees, Angelina Vasco Sepe, that mentions the Redeemer Italian Baptist Church.

Anywho, this was an interesting slice of Truxton Circle Italian-American history.