Why are fewer than 2 percent of the nation's licensed architects black? Richard K. Dozier, a professor of architecture at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, thinks one reason is that young people think no historic building of architectural merit in the black community, designed and constructed by black architects and builders, exists. To help break down that misconception, he'll introduce "Historic African-American Churches of Florida" in an illustrated lecture Wednesday at Old Dillard Museum in Fort Lauderdale. Among the many local churches of historical interest are two in Fort Lauderdale: Mount Olive Baptist Church and St. Christopher's Episcopal Church.
Congregants established Mount Olive in 1918 in a small wooden building east of the railroad tracks. They went through several meeting places until finally, in 1937, the cement-brick building with its wrought iron openwork steeple was constructed on the northwest corner of NW Fourth Street and Ninth Avenue. The old church is a good example of what Dozier terms "additive architecture," in which a congregation starts with a basement and adds rooms as it can afford them.
St. Christopher's, a few blocks away on the corner of NW Sixth Avenue and Fourth Street, is a charming country church done in rusticated concrete block. David Nathaniel Laramore helped found this house of worship in 1916, the year he came to Fort Lauderdale from the Bahamas, and made the bricks for the structure himself.
Dozier's passion is architectural history; he earned his doctorate in the subject from the University of Michigan. He says he hopes through his lectures to encourage people to take another look at their churches and try to get them listed on the National Register of Historic Places. With so many older things in Florida falling to the wrecker's ball, his is a worthy goal.