JONES TABERNACLE AME CHURCH

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

 

Jones Tabernacle was organized by Bishop Richard R. Wright Jr. in 1930  to propagate the seeds of African Methodism.  He did so when he left with a few members from Morris Brown AME Church.  Richard Wright was a notable figure, he was a connoisseur of history and authored an encyclopedia, in addition to books and pamphlets. He was the president of Wilberforce University and at Payne Theological Seminary he taught Hebrew and Greek.  Among his other achievements: co-founder with his father and sister and chief financial backer of the Citizens and Southern Banking Company in Philadelphia, and the 57th Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church..

The twentieth century saw changes in the socio-economic structure of Diamond Street.  The area was transitioning  towards  middle class African Americans.  Union Methodist sold the edifice to Jones Tabernacle (which moved from 20th and Dauphin because of the growing congregation) because of these reflective changes.  In the 1950s the congregation had grown to a  thousand parishioners.

Unfortunately in 1964 the congregation split over the appointment of  Rev. Booker by Bishop Richard Wright to another church. A large portion of the congregation left to establish an independent church called Temple of The Devine.

The neighborhood would latter begin to deteriorate.  

In March of 1981 Jones Tabernacle began the process to have the church designated as a historic landmark.  The reasons stated were: the architects Hazlehurst and Huckel, the architectural style in which it was designed (Richardson Romanesque), the original furnishing had survived, the founding of the church by a prominent man, and most importantly the integrity of the building remained intact.  

Jones Tabernacle was incorporated as a Historic Landmark on October 5, 1981.  Although they have received a matching  grant from Keystone Preservation in the sum of $80,000.00 for restorations of the slate roof over the chapel and sanctuary, cleaning and pointing of the stone masonry, and repair of several stain glass windows the church requires much more cosmetic restoration.

Today the congregation is well with approximately four hundred parishes nor and boost a community credit union..  The neighborhood is being rejuvenated by city re-development and the status of being a Historic District.   The  is predominately  Afro-Americans. 

Union Methodist Episcopal Church founded in 1801 moved from old city ( 4th & Arch) location because the emphasis was changing for the residents of higher mobility in newer residential districts after the Civil War. Union Methodist  had chosen to worship among the architecturally prestigious churches designed by Willis G. Hale, Angus Wade and Frank Furness.  On the east side was Charles Burns 's Gothic Episcopal , South Memorial Church of the Advocate;  To the west was a Hazelhurst and Huckel church, for a Baptist church.  Within this boundaries of  these churches were stately Victorian homes.  The Methodist church takes on a drastic new look as compared to the pre-Civil War modest  brick structure.

Union Methodist Church and Parish were built in 1888 by the architect Hazelhurst and Huckel.  It was not a surprise that these architects had been chosen as there reputation had already been established and Samuel Huckels' father was a Methodist minister.  Edward Hazelhurst had  trained under Frank Furness.

The style of the architecture would  emulate Henry Hobson Richardson of Boston. and encompass the block between Lambert and Woodstock Streets on the 2000 block of Diamond Street .  

Description as written in the National Register of Historic Places states:  " the church  has varied building scape of gables, chimneys, towers and pinnacles in good picturesque array.  The smaller mass of the parish house, to the right, is given force by the simple treatment of openings in the first , second and third stories, each joined to a belt course that emphasizes the spatial subdivisions of the building.  The gable was made a major focus by a more elaborate, belt courses, and at the apex, a checkerboard pattern of stone, all surrounded by strongly cut billet molding and coping, supported at the corners by carved gable blocks." 

" The immense quarry faced, rusticated, archway of the entrance on the squat Syrian columns, is the hallmark of the Richardsonian Romanesque.  Above, but within a frame established by the projecting, cylindrical buttress is a gigantic, tripartite stained glass window, subdivided by triplet clusters of columns, carrying stilted semicircular arches that gives monumental scale to the wall."    

" Within, the building is divided into two principal levels, a first floor Sunday School, punctuated  by a-grid of cast iron columns, and the second floor balconied by sanctuary above.  Both are approached by a generous wainscoted entrance hall, terminated by a dog leg stair at each end, that rises to the main church level, and to the balcony above.  Leaded glass doors open into the church, an immense soaring space, that recalls the Byzantine ecclesiastical form of the cross in a square plan, in the American materials of cast iron corner columns, supporting the arches of wood truss and focused in the center by an immense chandelier, now electrified, but originally gas, and toward the beam, given interest by the ran of organ pipes."   

Please link to Campbell AME Church.

 

 

 Sources:

 Courtesy of Historic Commission,  National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form 

Interview with Present Pastor, Ellis  B. Louden, December 2005

 Cummings C, Frank, Dixon H. John, Wynn A. Henry, Scott-Singletons M. Thelma, and Green A. P. Patricia. 

The First Episcopal Districtís Historical Review of 200 years of African Methodism. Greenlick & Ronald Weinman1987