The Congregations of 312-314 Bright Street
Garden Baptist Church
Built by the Garden Mission of Indianapolis in 1871, the church at 312-314 Bright Street was the original home of the Garden Baptist Church. Despite its location in a predominantly African American neighborhood, the congregation of Garden Baptist Church was white and continued to be white even after they moved to another location on Lansing Street in 1941. As with 312-314 Bright Street, the Lansing Street property was also eventually bought by the IUPUI and the church moved once again.
The congregation's first pastor, Rev. W. H. Harris, served the church for many years. He remained with the congregation until the 1920s when he became pastor of the Corinthian Baptist Church.
In 1916, while he was a pastor of the Garden Baptist Church, Rev. Harris served as a committee member of the American Baptist Publication Society, which was a group founded in 1824 by Luther Rice under the name Baptist General Tract Society. The group's mission was one of educational outreach, including printing bibles, publishing of books and pamphlets, and establishing Sunday school curriculum. Rev. W. H. Harris was a member of the finance committee for one of the society's programs with the goal to involve children in church works and social service.
In addition to the American Baptist Publication Society, several other groups were associated with the church. Some of these groups include the Faithful Women's Followers and the Women's Mission Circle. The church also participated in events such as the Baptist Young Peoples' Union Ralley at the first annual session of the Central Association of the Baptist Church.
Friendship Baptist Church
In 1948, the African-American congregation of Friendship Baptist Church moved from the corner of Paca and Ninth streets to 312-314 Bright Street. The congregation remained at the Bright Street location until 1966 when it moved to Sheffield Avenue.
The church was home to a diverse array of musical talent. Musical acts included the likes of the Metropolitan Jubilee Singers of Metropolitan Baptist Church, The Men's Chorus of Barnes Methodist Church, Miss Rosa Kate Williams and Her Octette Spiritual Singers, and various plays.
Reverend Charles Overstreet served as the pastor of Friendship Baptist for over fourteen years until his death in 1952. Under his guidance, the congregation grew to over 200 members. Born in Valverda, Lousianna in 1887, he lived in Indianapolis for thirty-six years. While living in Indianapolis, he also worked as a warehouse clerk at the Acme-Evans Company. His wife, Willa Mae Overstreet, was an active member of the church chorus.
Upon the death of Rev. Charles Overstreet, he was succeeded by Rev. Albert Brown, who was the assistant pastor of the church. Rev. Brown was born in 1919 in Kentucky where he attended public school, going on to recieve a scholarship to attend the Lincoln Institute. After majoring in Ancient and Medieval History and English, he joined the Virginia Baptist Church and received his license to preach. Next, he studied religious reasearch, bible and church history, and religious psychology at the Moddy Bible Institute. In 1951, Rev. Brown moved to Indianapolis where he joined the Mt. Olive Baptist Church. The same year he married his wife, Hazel Thompson. In 1952, he moved to Friendship Baptist Church to replace Rev. Overstreet.
Western Star Baptist Church
Western Star Baptist got its start in 1964 at the Prince Hall building on 653 North West Street where services were held temporarily until the church moved into 312-314 Bright Street later that year. Western Star Baptist was the shortest lived congregation at 312-314 Bright Street as they moved to a new church on Ketchum Avenue in late 1975. The congregation still gathers there today. Throughout its time at both Bright Street and Ketchum Avenue, the church held several annual Women's Day events.
Rev. Frank L. Snyder was the pastor of the church during its entire life on Bright Street and through its move to Ketchum Avenue. Born in Swiftown, Mississippi in 1900, he lived in Indianapolis for sixty-eight years before his death in 1988. For twenty-six of those years, he also worked as a mailhandler for the U.S. Postal Service. He was the founder of Western Star Baptist as well as the facilitater of the transfer to the new address at Ketchum Avenue in Haughville.
314-214 Bright Street Today
Following Western Star Baptist Church's move in 1975, the building at 312-314 Bright Street sat vacant until it was torn down the next year. Today, in its place, is green space on IUPUI's campus.
Written by Abigail Ellenburg
Edited by Hannah Ryker, May 28, 2020