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St. John's African Methodist Episcopal Church

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1887–1888, Charles M. Cassell. 1956, 1972, interior renovations. 1961–1963, exterior restoration. 1907, parsonage, John Anderson Lankford. 1961, new parsonage. 1989, educational annex. 539–545 E. Bute St.
  • St. John's African Methodist Episcopal Church (Richard Guy Wilson)
  • St. John's Parsonage (Richard Guy Wilson)

In the latter part of the nineteenth century, the Romanesque Revival style in America was generally associated with the overscaled, massive forms of architect Henry Hobson Richardson. Cassell's Romanesque Revival design for this church is thus remarkable for its simplicity and restraint. The exterior is constructed of brick, with the exception of twin round-arched portals, executed in stone, that form the main entrance on the north facade. A tall, narrow round-arched window with elaborate plate tracery sits directly above the entrance, and to either side stand towers of unequal shape and height. Three levels of windows alternate with attached buttresses along the side walls, and shed dormers break the slope of the handsomely patterned slate roof. The vast width of the interior is spanned by hammerbeam trusses reinforced by wrought iron tie rods. A U-shaped gallery supported on cast iron columns surrounds the side and rear walls. Installed around 1890 and substantially rebuilt and modernized over the ensuing years, St. John's pipe organ holds the distinction of being the first in an African American church in the city and, possibly, the commonwealth. The adjacent Colonial Revival parsonage was designed in 1907 by John Anderson Lankford, a pioneering African American architect who was closely associated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Writing Credits

Richard Guy Wilson et al.


What's Nearby


Richard Guy Wilson et al., "St. John's African Methodist Episcopal Church", [Norfolk, Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Virginia: Tidewater and Piedmont, Richard Guy Wilson and contributors. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, 421-421.

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