Gethsemane Seventh-Day Adventist Church at 501 South Person Street was the first SDA church, black or white, established in Raleigh. Many of Gethsemane’s elders and pastors went on to become influential leaders in the black SDA movement, most notably Benjamin W. Abney, its founding pastor. In the early 1920s, after a year or so of tent meetings led by Abney, the growing group of Seventh Day Adventists managed to erect a sanctuary. The modest building has classic Gothic Revival-style elements like buttresses and pointed-arch windows with stained glass.
The wall material is rare for the period of construction and unique in its ornament. The walls boast distinctive concrete blocks adorned with pebbled quartz. The blocks were probably made onsite by the congregation members. Block-making machines were affordable and widely available—you could buy one from the Sears catalog. Advertisements bragged “one man can make from 100 to 150 perfect blocks a day…and can do it day after day.” The concrete blocks were formed in a mold and then decorated with quartz pieces that were pressed into the face of the block. The roof structure of the church was seriously damaged in the tornado of 2011; it was lifted and then dropped back on the walls. The building was declared unsafe by the building official and came within days of being demolished before it was purchased and restored by Phuc Tran.