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Historic First Baptist Church Project

Colonial Williamsburg is excavating the Nassau Street site of First Baptist Church, founded in secret by free and enslaved Blacks in 1776. Part of an ongoing collaboration with First Baptist Church and the Let Freedom Ring Foundation, this nationally-significant project has unearthed the church’s first permanent structure dating to the early 1800s. These initial efforts and future work will help expand programming and tell a more complete and inclusive story about our nation’s founding and life in 18th-century America.

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Funded by generous donors, the First Baptist Church project has already yielded significant findings and set the stage for future discoveries. In October 2021, after a year of excavating the site, Colonial Williamsburg’s archaeologists found what they and members of First Baptist Church have been looking for: the church’s first permanent structure dating to the early 1800s. The newly-identified 16x32-foot brick building foundation sits alongside a brick paving on top of a layer of soil that dates to the early 1800s. In addition to the original structure, Colonial Williamsburg archaeologists have discovered at least 41 confirmed human gravesites. The project gained significant national media attention in July 2022 when archaeologists began excavating three graves, beginning a process to learn about who was buried at the site.

This multi-year project seeks the information needed to accurately reconstruct the earliest version of the church’s first permanent structure, surrounding landscape and topography; to learn about the worship experiences of the church’s early congregants.

This groundbreaking work is possible because of generous donors. Please consider joining them by making a gift of your own today. Thank you for ensuring we will continue this important work.

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For more information on the history of First Baptist Church and details of Colonial Williamsburg’s previous work with the community on this archaeological project, read the Aug. 25, 2020 press release announcing the project and the Jan. 14, 2021 update; visit firstbaptistchurch.org and colonialwilliamsburg.org; call 1-855-296-6627 toll free; follow Colonial Williamsburg and Colonial Williamsburg Archaeology on Facebook; and follow @colonialwmsburg on Twitter and Instagram.

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Learn more about the project