Asbury United Methodist Church reflects important themes in the city’s social history including abolition, emancipation, reconstruction, and the civil rights movement. It is the city’s oldest African-American church to remain on its original site. Early historical records show the congregation’s efforts to strive for independence from white-controlled church leadership. Asbury was established in 1836 as the Asbury Aid Society by black parishioners from Foundry Methodist Church (an integrated congregation established 1814) and gained official recognition in 1845. Finally in 1869, Asbury was dedicated as an independent pastorate, named for Methodist evangelist Bishop Francis Asbury (originally Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church).
The church was active in providing educational and missionary assistance after the Civil War. Notable pastors have included J.E.W. Bowen, Matthew W. Clair (promoter of Asbury as the “National Church of Negro Methodism”). Notable congregants have included Mary Church Terrell, Mary McLeod Bethune, among others. Additionally, the city’s first desegregated apartments were established by the church in 1947.
The church was built 1915-16 and designed by Clarence L. Harding. It is built in the Gothic Revival style and made of granite and limestone with a prominent corner tower, buttresses, and stained glass windows.
DC designation: March 21, 1984
National Register listing: November 1, 1986