Waters Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church, formerly known as Shiloh Baptist then Mount Olive AME, is associated with the pre-Civil War history of Black churches, and specifically when the AME Church funded a number of building projects in the United States and abroad for missionary work. The retention of the original building fabric demonstrates the economic viability of the AME Church before the 1860s, when the church sought to expand its holdings in its first district, which included Philadelphia. In 1842, the Shiloh Baptist Church purchased property on Clifton Street and erected this Greek Revival church. In 1885, the building was sold to AME Wesleyan Church (also known as Murray Chapel). In 1899, the church’s pastor, John M. Palmer, changed its name to Mount Olive AME.
The simple brick structure is similar in character to the surrounding row houses. The original entrance, on the northwest corner of the building facing South Clifton Street, is now the side entrance. This western elevation features five sets of stacked double-hung windows that give the appearance of elongated stained glass windows. Four double-hung windows line the ground level south of the entrance doors. The new entrance faces South Street and features similar double-hung windows as those found on the west elevation. Both ends of the low-pitched gabled roof are adorned with simple Greek Revival trim. Although the church retains much of its original building materials, it was altered significantly in 1921 and 1953.
In 1950, after many church members moved and formed the new Greater Mt. Olive AME Church at Nineteenth and Fitzwater, the remaining members reassembled the congregation as Waters Memorial AME in memory of former pastor Reverend Hodson Waters. In 1975, the Historic Commission of the City of Philadelphia included Waters Memorial AME on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.
Cooperman, Emily T. “Inventory of African American Historic Church Resources, City of Philadelphia.” Philadelphia, 2008.
Waters Memorial AME Church. “Church History.” https://www.watersmemorialamec.org/church-history.