Professional News

UK alumna helps secure National Historic Registration for Frankfort church

Green Hill Missionary Baptist Church today (photo by Nan Wakefield, 2022)
Green Hill Missionary Baptist Church in 2022. Photo provided by Nan Wakefield.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 19, 2024) — With the help of a University of Kentucky College of Design alumna, Green Hill Missionary Baptist Church of Frankfort, Kentucky, has been listed on the National Register for Historic Places, after years of interest and effort from the church’s community.

The historic Frankfort church, originally named Green Hill Colored Baptist Church, formed in 1891. The building it currently occupies dates to 1921. Through the years since its establishment, the church has undergone many changes. Even so, UK alumna Nan Wakefield says the Green Hill community has remained intact and vibrant despite urban renewal and upheaval of other Black American communities.

Wakefield's contributions to preserving the church began in a historic preservation course in Fall 2022, taught by Daniel Vivian, Ph.D., an associate professor in the College of Design. Each student studied a property somewhere in the Commonwealth. The final project involved compiling a National Register of Historic Places nomination for the property; this includes a detailed record of its history and a description of its extant form.

At the class’s conclusion, Wakefield decided to follow through with Green Hill Missionary Baptist Church and work with Elizabeth McGrapth, the church’s historian and a lifelong congregant, to have the nomination formally reviewed by the Kentucky Heritage Council, the state agency tasked with oversight of the National Register program in Kentucky.

Given the extent of their history and their existing efforts toward listing on the National Register, the community of Green Hill Missionary Baptist Church was eager to contribute their time and support to this project. Wakefield shared that the city and state presentations were very emotional for all in attendance.

“Community-driven preservation is the most important kind,” said Wakefield. “I find it much more valuable to prioritize local knowledge and collaboration.”

Wakefield expressed her gratitude for the UK Department of Historic Preservation. Her time as a graduate student at the College of Design provided her with a thorough understanding of the legislative policies that govern historic preservation, as well as how nominations are assessed by officials at the state and national levels.

While there are still many unregistered historic places in Frankfort, the preservation of Green Hill Missionary Baptist Church has inspired discussion of other projects relating to the significance in Black American communities in the area.

The next steps for Green Hill include fundraising for an official plaque to announce their designation. To learn more, including how you can support the project, contact McGrapth at 502-330-9231. 

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