Join the Fight to Save the Historic First Baptist Church of Venice

Join the fight to restore the historical First Baptist Church of Venice as a community space.

Join the Effort to Save Our Historic  Landmark

The First Baptist Church of Venice, CA

 The First Baptist Church of Venice at 685 Westminster Ave. in Venice has a historic legacy in the Venice Community.  According to the First Annual Report recorded January 02, 1914 African American residents came together to develop a worship at a place of their own on July 17, 1910, amere 45 years after slavery was abolished.  Although the group met in various places, the original church was built in 1927 on land donated by Arthur Reese, a black man, and seminal figure in Venice, CA history who came to California seeking refuge for himself and his family from the remnants of  slavery and in hopes of a better life. A remarkable accomplishment considering this was in an era of restrictive covenants and the Klu Klux Klan highly active in political leadership in West Los Angeles

In the early 1960s the congregation outgrew the small Church so they gathered together to build a new church.  Through the personal commitment of funds, semi-skilled and skilled labor and other support services from the community, the current church at 685 Westminster was completed.  The congregation took occupancy of their new church in May 1968.   The church which is part of the ceremonially dedicated corner called E.L. Holmes Square was purchased by families who put up their land trust to purchase the property back in 1910.  

Today the Church is in trouble.  Without the knowledge of the community the Church was fraudulently sold in 2017 and unless we can delay forces in action, it will become an 11,700 square foot, single family residence for millionaire Jay Penske.  Not only will this historic building we transformed into someone’s home, but the legacy, the contributions, the meaningfulness and the 108-year-old connectivity and significance to the community will be eradicated.

The vision for the First Baptist Church of Venice is to formally recognize it as a Historic Cultural Monument and continue to maintain it as the Historical Black Cultural Institution that functions as the central unifying core of the African American people of the Venice community. It is an institution that was built by African American people of the Venice community from the early 1900s and continues as the religious, spiritual, social, education and personal development inspirator of the African American Community now known as Oakwood.  The First Baptist Church of Venice represents the effort and essence of the hard working resilient pioneers and other hopeful and courageous African Americans coming to Venice from the south to escape Jim Crow laws and racism, only a few decades after the emancipation proclamation, and with meager means took the desolate place they were relegated to live from a swamp land to a livable, prosperous, community. 

FBCV is the living symbol of this struggle, resilience, vision, and transformation. It is and has always been a spiritual beacon at the crossroads of the historic African American community in Venice and must be preserved as such.

We are currently in the process of establishing ourselves as a Community Land Trust (CLT) with the intention of retaining ownership of the Church & its land to ensure that it remains in the community’s possession in perpetuity. The purpose of this CLT is to benefit the neighborhood and the preservation of black and other marginalized cultures and histories in Venice. Through this land use model the community will steward the land and achieve equity.


Venice, CA First Baptist Church History


Quick Facts

  • The First Baptist Church of Venice sits at what is called E.L. Holmes Square on the corners of  7th and Westminster Ave. It has been a community spiritual space, refuge, and institution for over 108 years.
  •  The church’s original edifice was located across the street at 688 Westminster. The current edifice representing the church was built in 1968 at 685 Westminster. Again, both at E.L. Holmes Square on 7th/Westminster Ave.
  • In 2000 the intersection of Westminster Ave & 7th Ave in Venice was designated as a permanent ceremonial location and named Bishop E.L. Holmes Square after the longtime pastor of the First Baptist Church of Venice.
  • In January 2017 the church property was fraudulently sold by pastor Horace Allen. January 2017 is also the last month the church was open to the public. The pastor then sold it to Jay Penske, son of automotive billionaire Roger Penske, and his wife, former supermodel Elaine Irwin.
  • Real estate broker Chris Quintal represented both the buyer and the seller in the transaction.
  • Trustees of the congregation filed a lawsuit against pastor Horace Allen for the sale of the First Baptist Church. The lawsuit is still pending.
  • The sale of the church was done covertly. No public notice or real estate sign was put up on the property to notify the local community it was being sold.
  • In October 2017, the real estate sector dominated Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC)  unanimously voted to approve the Penske’s plans for “adaptive reuse” of the First Baptist Church property even though the sale is in legal dispute and pending verdict. Not one VNC member referenced the historical and spiritual significance of the church space. 
  • In August Councilman Mike Bonin promised to helps save the First Baptist Church of Venice. To date he has been silent and a no-show in keeping his word to help us.
  • We are currently in the 2nd phase of a 3 part process to grant Historic Designation for the First Baptist Church of Venice. It looks promising and when we do achieve this designation there are still other bases to cover to ensure the protection and reclamation of this historic site back to the community.


First Baptist Church of Venice Petition

Upcoming Events

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What YOU Can Do to Help

Contact Councilman Bonin

Contact Mike Bonin, tell him to keep his word and continue on the path set by Ruth Galanter to designate First Baptist Church of Venice as a historical landmark. Respect Black History in Venice !

[email protected]
[email protected]
cc: [email protected] 

E-mail City Planning

Tell them Designate the First Baptist Church space as a landmark and No Mansionization in Oakwood in whatever terms you prefer.

Email: [email protected] 
Reference these numbers in the title.
CASE N0#DIR-2017-1895-CDP-MEL
CEQA NO#ENV-2017-1896-CE


Call Radio Station KJLH

Ask that Reverend Horace Allen’s show on Sundays at 6pm be taken off the air because is being sued by elder church members for an illegal sale of First Baptist Church of Venice. Case# BS159555 was filed in Stanley Mosk Superior Court. Please let KJLH (102.3) know that you do not support this charlatan minister.

Call 310-330-2200

Join Our Weekly Sunday Vigil

We meet every Sunday from 1pm-3pm at the First Baptist Church (685 Westminster Ave.  Venice 90291) to bring attention to this important community issue to gather and organize in a spiritual way. All spirituality and worldviews welcomed to join us.