Church History

Alexander Campbell
Church History

The church where Eileen’s Bakery and Café currently resides was built in Fredericksburg VA 1833. It was occupied by the “Reformed Baptist”, led by Alexander Campbell. He is historically known for being part of the “Restoration Movement”. The result was a non-denominational Christian church whose disciples lived by Scripture and simple necessities.  Campbell was integrated in similar efforts is in Scotland, before he immigrated to the United States.

 

Young Alexander Campbell Young Alexander Campbell

As the story goes, when the West Virginian preacher, Alexander Campbell, came to Fredericksburg for a revival in 1831 (then located on Sophia Street where the Shiloh Baptist Church {Old site} now stands) vibrant preaching split the congregation. A portion of the congregation converted to his teachings and the other moved out towards the Fredericksburg Courthouse, where an appeal hearing was held that ruled the dissidents had the right to the Sofia Street building and the followers of Campbell had to get out. So the Campbell followers met in each others houses while they planned their new church. Their named began as the  “Reformed Baptists’ then changed to “the Main Street Christian Church” and finally the “First Christian Church of Fredericksburg”

 

 Before the Civil War

The parishioners disbanded around 1861 when the Civil War began. The building became derelict for 35 years, but its life was not over. It had been used as a hospital during the war, later as a warehouse for grain, and a schoolhouse. Also in that time it became the home of a black woman named “Happy Jenny”. She had lived in one of the Church balconies for some time. She was said to have held revivals that both black and white patrons could attend.

In the 1890’s the First Christian church was revived (a portion aided by a $1,700 federal grant that compensated for the civil war damage) and the building was remodeled. The balconies were removed, new floor, ceiling and windows. The alter was moved from one side of the building to the other, the front entrance followed and a baptizing tank was installed behind the alter. In the next decades to come wooden classrooms were added to the rear of the building to expand Sunday School.

 

The Knights of Pythias move in

In 1962, the First Christian Church moved uptown to a new building on Washington Avenue, opposite Mary Washington Monument. The church was sold to the Knights of Pythias Fraternal lodge. They changed it into a bingo hall, installed a small kitchen, snack shop, men’s T.V Bar and lastly added large exhaust fans to remove all the cigarette smoke. With their events, they slowly amassed a fund to eventually move them into a larger building, but that time coincided with the plummet of Fredericksburg business district. Many businesses moved to the Spotsylvania Mall area and Caroline Street was lined with boarded up storefronts.  When the Unitarian Church offered $20,000 less of the asking price, The Pythians took it.

 

Unitarians Renovate and Transform

The Pythians left behind a round stained glass window that the First Christian Church had also left behind when they moved uptown. The window contains a symbolic anchor in its center, which was said to be a memorial to the Civil War dead. It was given by a church founder sometime around 1900. The stained glass was moved to the front wall of the building where it’s displayed for everyone to see in the foyer.

In 1980 the red brick exterior was painted a cream yellow with white trim. Historic Fredericksburg Foundation marked this beautiful building with a brass plaque placed by the front door.

In May 2009, the Fellowship sold the building to the new site for Eileen’s Bakery and Café. Renovations were made, changing the main church area into the dining room for everyone to enjoy and the Sunday school classrooms into the kitchen and bakery production areas. Guests are treated to high ceilings, original church walls that are 12 inches thick and simply the legacy of an old colonial church that has survived the test of time.