African American architect Samuel M. Plato received his college degree from the Kentucky Normal School (now Simmons College) in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1902 and then completed a mail-order program in architecture from the International Correspondence Schools. Plato designed and constructed the Broadway Temple AME Zion Church in 1915.
The congregation of the Broadway Temple AME Zion Church was formed in 1876. In 1901 it moved from Twelfth Street to the corner of Thirteenth and Broadway in the largely Black neighborhood of Russell. The church approached Plato, who was then living in Marion, Indiana, to design and build the new church. Plato served as his own contractor and Black workmen completed the construction.
Plato designed a muscular brick building with limestone elements in an idiosyncratic neoclassical style. The two-story building sits on a painted limestone basement. The front of the building contains an Ionic in-antis portico with a strong entablature under a small pediment. Behind this is a larger gable with the same raking cornice and a fleur-de-lis acroterion at its apex. Above the rectangular door is a grouping of three stained glass windows. To either side of the portico is a large round-arched stained glass window under a heavy Renaissance-style hood molding with a prominent keystone. The corners of the building are set forward slightly, with paired pilasters framing double sets of sash windows. These corners read as abutments with an amplified attic zone. A domed hexagonal cupola tops the church. The fenestration of the facade is repeated along the sides of the church.
The dominant vocabulary of pressed brick and white painted stone details were continued in an annex built in 1926. A three-story tower creates a smooth transition between the two zones. Although no documentation exists, it is assumed that Plato was responsible for the addition.
Plato went on to design and build a number of private and public buildings in Louisville, including Stewart Hall at Simmons College in 1924, the Green Street Baptist Church in 1928, and the Curtiss-Wright Defense Plant Housing at Camp Taylor in 1942. The Broadway Temple AME Zion Church is open for services.
Hugh B. Foshee, “Broadway Temple AME Zion Church,” Jefferson County, Kentucky. National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form, 1983. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC.
Luhan, Gregory A., David Mohoney, and Dennis Dorner. Louisville Guide. Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press, 2004.