Friday, March 16, 2012

Harlem's Historic Houses of Worship

"Harlem's history lives on in houses of worship," by Jasmin K.Williams, in the New York Daily News on 10 November 2011--Harlem is a place to feed your mind, body and soul, complete with great food, first-class entertainment and some of the world's most famous and historic houses of worship. Walk down just about any block in Harlem and you'll find at least one church. Many of these churches started small, in lower Manhattan, where African-Americans lived before relocating uptown. These structures range from majestic Gothic and neo-Renaissance to lowly store fronts, and include every faith and denomination. Each Sunday, hundreds of tourist flock uptown for a visit.

Elmendorf Reformed Church; 171 E. 121st Street; New York, N.Y. 10035; Rev. Patricia A. Singletary, Pastor

Here's a look at few notable ones. Harlem’s oldest church is the Elmendorf Reformed Church. After changing locations six times is finally settled at 171 East 121st St. The church was established in 1660 under a Dutch Royal Charter and was known as the Low Dutch Church of Haarlem - the way the name Harlem was spelled before British colonizers dropped the extra “a”.

Mother African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

Mother African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church is the oldest black church in the country. Founded in 1796, it was known as “the freedom church” and was a safe stop for slaves traveling along the Underground Railroad. Famous members included Bishop Alexander Walters and Dr. W. E. B. DuBois founders of the NAACP.

Abyssinian Baptist Church

Located on 138th Street between Lenox and Seventh Avenues, Abyssinian Baptist Church is perhaps Harlem’s most famous house of worship. Known for having the best gospel choir in town, visitors line up around the block to attend Sunday services. This church was stared in 1808 at 40 Worth St. by a group of Ethiopians who rebelled against the racist policies of New York City churches. In 1908, Adam Clayton Powell Sr. became pastor, but it was his son, the fiery congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. who thrilled the masses from the pulpit. The church broke ground on its present location in 1922.

St. Philips Episcopal Church

St. Philips Episcopal Church, located at 210 West 134th Street is home to New York's oldest African-American Episcopal congregation. It was established in 1809 as The Free African Church of St. Philip and was located on Centre Street. It's Harlem home is an elegant, Neo-Gothic style building erected in 1910. 
Masjid Malcolm Shabazz Mosque

The Masjid Malcolm Shabazz Mosque, at 116th St. and Lenox Ave., with its distinctive gold dome, is one of Harlem's most distinctive houses of worship. It became the center for Muslim life in Harlem but was bombed after the assassination of civil rights leader Malcolm X. It was later restored and renamed in Malcolm's honor. 

The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine

The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, located at 112th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, is one of the largest examples of Gothic revival architecture to be found anywhere. Construction began at the 13-acre site in 1892 and continues today. 

The Williams Institutional CME Church

The Williams Institutional CME Church, at 2225 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., was once the famous Lafayette Theater. It later became a vaudeville house, a movie theater and finally a church, which in 1990 erased all traces of the Lafayette's former grandeur, sealing up its windows and removing its great marquee. (source: New York Daily News)

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