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. In October 2019 the Lynching Sites Project of Memphis memorialized the lynching of two Black men in 1851 and 1869 with tablets in front of the church. The associated historic Collins Chapel Connectional Hospital was founded in 1920 by the church, and the hospital facility was built in 1954 (at 409 Ayers Street). It has recently been renovated and now serves with Room In The Inn – Memphis Homeless Ministry as a recuperative care facility for the homeless of Memphis and Shelby County. In late 2022, the church received a $500,000 physical preservation grant from the African American Civil Rights grant program of the Historic Preservation Fund administered by the National Park Service. Work is expected to begin in early 2023. Collins Chapel is one of only two single-lot NR-listed 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