As one of only a few memorials dedicated to a religious leader, the Francis Asbury Memorial honors the life and legacy of someone whom many consider the “father of the American Methodist Church.” Dedicated in 1924, the statue features a bronze Asbury on horseback, designed by H. Augustus Lukeman; the pedestal with selected quotations by Asbury was designed by Evarts Tracy.
During his lifetime, the Methodist Church, originating in England, faced opposition; despite this, founder John Wesley continued to expand the church domestically and internationally. In 1771, Asbury and another preacher, Richard Wright, were selected as missionaries to travel to the American colonies to establish religious congregations. However, Asbury’s time as a missionary coincided with the American Revolution. He remained the sole Methodist missionary during the war, but had to go into hiding as he did not renounce his British citizenship during the revolution.
After the war’s end, Methodist missionaries once again traveled to the country, and in 1784, Asbury, along with preacher Thomas Coke, were elected as bishops of the American Methodist Church. When Coke returned to England a few years later, Asbury continued as the leading bishop for the congregation. He continued to preach along the Eastern United States for the rest of his life, and interestingly, never owned or rented a permanent home throughout his life in America. In addition to his religious leadership, Asbury also became an advocate for abolition, even urging George Washington to draft anti-slavery legislation.
When the Francis Asbury Memorial Association advocated for the commission of a statue in memory of the 100th anniversary of his death, their selection of Washington, DC as the eventual location was not only due to the city’s prominence as the nation’s capital, but also because of Asbury’s ties to the area. While, as previously mentioned, he did not own or rent any property, Asbury preached and visited Georgetown and the surrounding area many times. The memorial's location at the prominent intersection of 16th and Mount Pleasant streets serves as a reminder of the religion’s rich history.
DC Inventory: February 22, 2007
National Register: October 11, 2007
Within Mount Pleasant Historic District