Mason Temple, Church of God in Christ

Status: Preserved

Address: 930 / 938 Mason Street, Memphis

Built: 1940, completed 1945

Architectural Style: Art Moderne

Original Function/Purpose: Church

Mason Temple was placed on the National Register on Apr. 10, 1992.

History: Bishop Charles H. Mason was born into slavery near Bartlett, TN and founded the Church of God in Christ in 1897, establishing his congregation in Memphis. The church had, and still has, a predominantly African-American congregation. COGIC serves as the spiritual center of a denomination that has grown to nearly 6.5 million members on six continents. The construction of what would become Mason Temple began in 1940; progress was slow during the war years due to shortage of supplies including steel, but the building was dedicated in December 1945 during that year’s COGIC convocation. The architect for the project was William Harrison Taylor, but aside from the fact that he was an Elder in the church, sadly little is known of his life and career. The interior’s sophisticated design results in “a decidedly compact space that paradoxically” holds “a very large number of seats.” The church was a center of organization for the Sanitation Workers strike of 1968 in Memphis. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I’ve been to the Mountaintop” speech here to a capacity audience the day before he was assassinated, and advocates have proposed that the church be declared a national monument. In February 2018 the church was one of three sites in Memphis named to the new, multi-state U.S. Civil Rights Trail. The others in Memphis are the Lorraine Motel and Clayborn Temple, joining almost 100 additional sites nationwide. In 2018 the City of Memphis designated this property as a site on the Memphis Heritage Trail.

City Council District: 6

Super District: 8

County Commission District: 8

DON NEWMAN