1528 Sumter Street1528 Sumter Street
Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church organized in 1866 with William H. Brown as the founding pastor. The congregation worshipped briefly in an old sword factory and then moved to the corner of Lincoln and Hampton streets. Bethel moved to this location and built a large wood frame church that was dedicated in November 1869. Minister Benjamin F. Porter, who had moved to Columbia after serving in the Black 5th Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment during the Civil War, operated a parochial school a little further north on Sumter Street with his wife, Elizabeth Porter.
In 1921, the congregation laid the cornerstone for this church, which was designed by John Anderson Lankford. Lankford, the first licensed African American architect in Washington, DC, was appointed supervising architect of the AME church in 1908. Known as the “Dean of Negro Architecture,” Lankford saw the church as the center of the black community, and as such his designs included social halls as well as sanctuaries. This church, completed in 1922 for $67,300, had seating for 2,000 congregants.