For a hundred years, the congregants of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church have gathered to worship and serve the community of Hammond. In July 2019, the Indiana Historical Bureau recognized the church with dedication of Lake County’s eleventh state historic marker, noting the Mt. Zion’s role as a center for religious, political, social, and civic life for Hammond’s African American community.
Since 1949, the Mt. Zion has occupied an unassuming one-story brick building on Kenwood Street. After meeting in private homes and temporary space for 30 years, the church broke ground on its permanent home. Church leaders made a notable decision in choosing local architectural firm L. Cosby Bernard & Co. to design the new building. One of Hammond’s most prominent architects, Bernard Sr. designed the depression-era Hammond Civic Center and a number of Tudor Revival landmarks, including a trio of public libraries and several grand homes along Forest Avenue. The architects’ design for Mt. Zion mixed modern design and materials with traditional details like the warm wood panels of the vaulted ceiling.
The new marker also recognizes Reverend Albert R. Burns, who served Mt. Zion from 1945 to 1998, and whose work with the local chapter of the NAACP and Hammond Human Relations Commission challenged racial injustice. Under Rev. Burns’ leadership, the congregation advocated for civil rights, housing, and job opportunities for the African American residents of Hammond. In 1983, the Mt. Zion Housing Authority, a subsidiary of the church, helped open Mt. Zion Pleasant View Plaza a block down the street to provide affordable senior housing.
“Mt. Zion has always looked to enhance our community to better the environment for the people that call it home, says Rev. William Collins, pastor of Mt. Zion church. “We hope to continue the legacy started by our predecessors and to pass it on to the next generation.”
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