Author ORCID Identifier


Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Daniel S. Pasciuti

Second Advisor

Amy Spring

Third Advisor

Timothy Crimmins

Fourth Advisor

Marni Davis


In this dissertation, I excavate mechanisms of power flowing through social structure and the built environment in urban neighborhoods. Focusing on three neighborhood church buildings in Atlanta: Big Bethel AME Church in Sweet Auburn, Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Summerhill, and Lizzie Chapel Flats in Inman Park, I describe the connections between social power and physical architecture across the century 1920 – 2020. Adapting historic preservation to understand each building’s trajectory, Big Bethel represents a trajectory of retention, Mount Carmel of retreat, and Lizzie Chapel of reuse: Big Bethel continues to serve the congregation which built it as a church; Mount Carmel maintains an operational presence in the original structure, but moved most operations to a new campus on the opposite side of Atlanta in the 1980s; Lizzie Chapel has been renovated for residential use. I employ an innovative multi-method bricolage approach to construct a micro (church)-level comparative historical analysis of these sites, describing meso (neighborhood) and macro (church) level conditions and interactions to expand Bourdieu’s (1989) concept of habitus to the built environment, formulating the term architectural habitus. In addition to offering implications for historic preservationists, policymakers, and city and church leaders, I also provide evidence of the ongoing relevance of the Black church (Du Bois 1899; 1903) in Black placemaking (Hunter and Robinson 2018), extend the theory of the growth machine (Logan and Molotch 1987) to the church to develop the Christian growth machine (Townsend 2019), and expand Zukin’s (1995) cultural commodification to a new notion of symbolic gentrification. These theoretical insights emerge from a uniquely dense method, all of which provide frameworks for scholars of other urban environments.


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