Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church – 116 Elm Street

116 Elm Street [,MYRTHL/EFHD], Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1912-14.  This imposing church, handsomely constructed of yellow brick and containing a number of fine stained glass windows, houses one of Tarrant County’s oldest African-American congregations. The African Methodist Episcopal Church, forerunner of Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church, was founded in 1870 by Rev. Moody, a circuit riding minister, and five other individuals.  By 1879 the church had changed its name to Allen’s Chapel A.M.E. church (the “‘s” was dropped from the name in 1898) to honor Richard Allen (1760-1831), a Philadelphia minister who was the first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal church.

The present church building is the fifth structure to house the congregation.  In 1912, shortly after the arrival of Rev. S.R. Jenkins, the decision was made to raze the 1887 church structure that stood on this site and build a new building.  William Sidney Pittman, an African-American architect and son-in-law of Booker T. Washington, designed the building. Pittman, a graduate of Tuskeegee Institute and the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry in Philadelphia, established his office in Fairmount Heights, a suburb of Washington, D.C, in 1904.   Among his other buildings are the Twelfth Street Y.M.CA. in Washington, D.C and the 1907 Negro Building at the Jamestown Exposition. In 1913, Pittman and his wife Portia moved to Dallas, so it is likely that he was able to personally supervise some aspects of the Allen Chapel project.  William Reed and Sons was the contractor who erected the building, which was formally dedicated on July 22, 1914.

A Gothic Revival structure, the rectangular plan church is two stories high over a basement with a square bell tower at its southeast corner.  The front of the church faces east, but the chancel faces west, so that as one enters the sanctuary through one of two vestibules, one faces the congregation.  This somewhat unusual design was reportedly suggested by the pastor, Rev. Jenkins. The church interior, including its pressed metal ceiling, Estey pipe organ, and leaded art glass windows is well preserved.  Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church was designated as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1983 and listed on the National Register in 1984.  It is also a contributor to the potential East First Street Historic District.  The church is extremely significant as a major work by an African-American architect and is representative of buildings erected by African-American congregations in southern urban areas.

Leave a Comment