Antioch Primitive Baptist Church was founded in 1832 in Pleasant Valley, then moved to Moccasin Gap in 1842 and finally to its present location in Louvale in 1851. Louvale was then known as Hannahatchee, named after a nearby creek. The present church was erected in the mid 1880’s to replace the original log structure. Louvale is a small farm community in the western part of Stewart County and is the site of Louvale Church Row. Church Row is listed on the National Register and consists of three church buildings dating from the late 19th century.
Church Row came about as a result of land donated by Dr. William H. Tatum. Dr. Tatum had acquired land adjacent to the Antioch church and donated some of it, first to the congregation of Marvin Methodist church and later to the New Hope Baptist congregation. Dr. Tatum’s vision was that Louvale (formerly named Antioch) would become a thriving railroad town as a result of the Americus, Preston and Lumpkin railroad being built in the late 1880’s. Unfortunately the railroad fell on hard times and ultimately went bankrupt, resulting in Louvale becoming just another rural Georgia farming community…….although a charming one that still retains its historical character.
The church itself is simply elegant. The center steeple design in combination with the simple but tasteful main entry into the sanctuary makes one wonder how these early Georgia builders acquired such a sense of tasteful, religious architecture. It is quite moving. The liberal use of windows on all four sides of the small chapel seems so appropriate for the architecture while also providing an abundance of light and ventilation.
The interior of Antioch is dramatic. The light from the large four over four windows comes pouring in and the beautiful rural countryside is all around you. The lovely primitive pews sit on each side of a wide center aisle. That aisle points the way to the cross and leads you to a perfectly proportioned chancel with the pulpit, side chairs and cross made of dark stained wood standing out against the pastel and white sanctuary. The natural light emanating from the rear of the chancel delicately lights up the angled, diagonal pattern of the back wall which is adorned with a dark, wooden cross. Quite a vision.
Up close and personal with the chancel and even more architectural elements are apparent. The linear nature of the flooring and the raised chancel is very visible along with the prominent contrasting wainscoting and hand carved support columns. Simple furniture that is sparsely placed and so appropriate.
The view toward the rear is dramatic with the surrounding views of the Georgia countryside all around. Very unusual to have this three sided visibility in one of these old churches.
They have been making a joyful noise unto the Lord for over 125 years in this sanctuary. You can virtually hear the sweet strains of Bringing in the Sheaves pouring out of the windows and into the Georgia pines. Very uplifting.
This view of the chancel, pulpit and apse demonstrates the simplicity expressed by the lack of any unnecessary decoration found in Primitive Baptist churches.
The chancel of Antioch dominates the interior. It is a lovely view but made even more dramatic by the afternoon light that comes pouring in and seems to make the chancel backdrop almost glow.
The striking back lighting effect which dominates the lines of sight in the sanctuary’s apse are achieved by the construction technique pictured above. Place high windows in the apse walls. While simple in construction, it is one of the very unique features of Antioch and one that we have not seen on any other church with ‘box’ construction. At least not one that works as well as this one does.
Antioch Institute, located next to the church, was built in the 1850’s and was operated by the Antioch Primitive Baptist Church until it was sold to Stewart County in 1895. The building is believed to have been used for church services until the the present sanctuary to the south was erected for that purpose about 1885. The county operated the Louvale High School here until 1928 when the upper grades were transferred to Lumpkin. The elementary school remained until 1942. The school is now used as the Louvale Community House which serves as the home for the Sybil and John B. Richardson School of Sacred Harp Singing.
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