David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church

2211 E Martin Luther King Jr Blvd., 78702
John S. Chase
Oliver Street Construction Company
Mid-Century Modern


With a soaring Mid-Century Modern steeple, David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church is easy to spot along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Chestnut Avenue. The brick structure is punctuated by color-block windows and rhythmic glazing, bringing an abundance of natural daylight inside. This significant modern architecture landmark is part of the legacy of the first licensed Black architect in Texas, John S. Chase. The building’s intentional design and dramatic visual expression present unique spaces for worship and celebrate the culture rooted in the Black Baptist church.


The origins of David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church stem from the Ceiling Hills Community in southeast Austin in the early 1920s. Over the next few decades, the church expanded to multiple locations in East Austin. As the congregation grew, the church invested in a new, larger site. The construction of the new church was financed by an organization of Black churches (St. John Regular Baptist Association) after white-owned banks refused to lend money to the church. The structure was designed by John S. Chase, the first Black licensed architect in Texas, and built by Oliver B. Street, a Black contractor who collaborated with Chase on several projects. The church that stands today was completed in 1959, and the congregation paid off its mortgage a decade later.

Chase’s Master’s thesis at The University of Texas at Austin was titled “Progressive Architecture for the Negro Baptist Church.” In his thesis, Chase studied the nature of religious buildings in general, as well as the visual and acoustic criteria of the worship practices of Black Baptist churches specifically. The David Chapel features a distinctive nave roofline that is pitched at a steep angle; inside this creates a forced perspective that draws the eye towards the focal point of the cross at the end of the sanctuary. Inspired by Mid-Century Modern styles and details, Chase used many creative spatial planning techniques, such as foldable panels that subdivide the space to increase functionality. The architect navigated significant grade changes on the site by developing a composition of low angular roofs surrounding the nave. At its east end, the form is anchored by a dramatic bell tower that pierces the sky and functions as a steeple.

The David Chapel has led many revitalization efforts in East Austin through the development and implementation of the Chestnut Neighborhood Plan. The church played an integral role in gaining city approval for the plan, developing vacant lots, and putting in sidewalks throughout the neighborhood. While the church values its ties to the East Austin community, it has once again outgrown its facilities. Additionally, many congregants have moved outside of Austin but continue to drive in for services. The church is contemplating moving to a location that can accommodate its continued growth, but this would require selling their landmark building. This has presented a tough decision for the church, whose primary goal moving forward is the preservation of a building that is historically and culturally significant. Options include rezoning the current property to allow for expansion, relocating the structure to a new site, or even finding a buyer equipped to preserve the existing structure. – Maanasa Nathan, NOMA

Photo Credits:

Leonid Furmansky (1-5); Bud Franck, AIA (6-7)