The Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church contributes significantly to the cultural heritage and visual beauty of the District of Columbia. The church is designed in the Victorian Gothic style popular in America in the 1880s. Completed in 1886, the church was designed by architect Samuel G.T. Morsell (1823-1909), who in 1844 associated with George Bearing (a builder) under the firm name of Morsell and Bearing. Throughout its history, the church has had parishioners who were very important in the history of DC's Black population, including Frederick Douglass and Altheia Turner.
The organization of the Metropolitan A.M.E. Church in the District grew out of dissatisfaction among Blacks in 1820 with the white Ebenezer Methodist Episcopal Church. One group of dissatisfied parishioners organized themselves and sent a petition in 1822 to Bishop Richard Allen requesting admission to the Baltimore Conference. Permission was granted, and the first A.M.E. Church in the District was established as the Israel Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. After the original Israel Bethel A.M.E. Church property was acquired by the U.S. Government, the congregation again petitioned the Baltimore Conference in 1870 and asked that the name be changed to Metropolitan A.M.E. Church.
In 1872 the Conference approved the new name. It was also recommended that a new church be built and that "each annual conference be requested to give at least one hundred dollars for the new building." Subsequently, the Israel Bethel Church withdrew from the conference, and in 1884, the General Conference recommended that the Union Bethel Church Society be authorized to build the Metropolitan A.M.E. (Union Bethel A.M.E. was organized in a private home for worship purposes; the group petitioned the conference for recognition and a minister, and their request was granted in 1838.)
Metropolitan A.M.E. eventually cost $70,000 to complete. The financing, at times, was difficult. This A.M.E. Church, at the time of its dedication, reputedly represented "the largest organized body of Negroes in the world." The church was dedicated in a program which ran through the week of May 30, 1886. Among those participating in the celebration were Bishop Daniel Payne historian of the National A.M.E. Church, Frederick Douglass, and the Honorable Francis Cardozo.
Throughout its history, the Church has remained an important site for much of DC's community. The funerals of Frederick Douglass, Blanche K. Bruce, and Rosa Parks have all been held in the Church, and President Barack Obama attended services at the Church prior to his second inauguration in 2013.
DC Inventory: April 24, 1973
National Register: July 26, 1973