First Baptist Church - 1910
|The First Baptist Church was located near Hammond's downtown district.
At the time, it was the finest, most respectable religious edifice in Northwest
Indiana. The Edward C. Minas Family was the main benefactor. They owned
a really fine department store and contributed heavily to their church.
During the 1950's, however, they brought in a hell-raising minister to lead the flock. Having a congregational system that voted on hiring and firing their minister, the new clergyman set about building the membership. His program and his message reached the less fortunate and the unemployed, the less educated immigrants from Southern Indiana... and... you guessed it, the new church members did not quite fit in with the old Hammond elite who had built the church. The old leadership wanted the minister fired... but he referred it to a vote of the congregation. By the time it all hit the fan, the minister had recruited enough new members to guarantee his job security and outvote the established elders. The disgruntled founders of the church, rather than live with their Christian neighbors, pulled out and built another church on south Hohman Avenue.
Now downtown Hammond is dominated by two factions: the sprawling First Baptist Church (the largest in Indiana) and St. Margaret's Hospital.
There's a Museum of Bad Art located near Boston that houses a collection of terrible art. The founder says that their collection consists of art that "started out with good intent but somewhere along the way it went terribly wrong." This art critic would suggest that this outdoor mural, designed to memorialize Baptist preacher Jack Hyles, would qualify for inclusion, providing it would fit indoors. A well meaning parishioner painted this mural of his beloved pastor and his wife.
Who says Hammond
doesn't have culture?
So what happened to the stately building
that was so prominent in Hammond's early history?
It caught fire and burned to the ground.
The paper reported:
June 6, 1964: Firemen pour steady stream of water on burning buildings of First Baptist Church. Fire fighting units from East Chicago and Calumet City have joined local department in effort to control the blaze. No causalities are reported. Damage estimate has not been made yet. (Chicago Sun-Times UPI TELEPHOTO )