Collins Chapel C.M.E. Church and Site

Status: Preserved

Address: 678 Washington Avenue, Memphis

Built: 1913

Architectural Style: Ecclesiastical vernacular

Original Function/Purpose: Church

The Collins Chapel C.M.E. Church and Site was placed on the National Register on Mar. 29, 1991.

History: Collins Chapel stands across the street from Victorian Village District, and represents a continuing congregation from 1859 to the present, making it the oldest black church in the city. (The church now credits its founding to a congregation of slaves and freedmen in 1841, pastored by Rev. Joseph T.C. Collins.) Over the years, Collins Chapel became an important center of African-American culture in Memphis. It helped found the Memphis chapter of the NAACP and was prominent in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Earlier church buildings preceded the current one, always on the same historic site; the first church, built in 1860, was destroyed by arson during the 1866 Memphis massacre. The present building was constructed, or rather rebuilt after a lightning fire, in 1913. It was remodeled in 1976 to serve the ever-growing congregation. Further remodeling has taken place since, but the church retains many of its original features and form. Collins Chapel is one of only two single-lot sites that the City of Memphis has designated as a local historic district or Historic Overlay District; the other is Maxwelton.

City Council District: 7

Super District: 8

County Commission District: 8

DON NEWMAN