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Celebrating Black History: Bethel A.M.E. Church

Bethel Ame Church’s impact on downtown

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Today, if you stop by the area of West Vermont Street along the Canal Walk, you’ll see a Hampton Inn by Hilton, but long before the building was a hotel called Bethel A.M.E., the oldest African American church in Indianapolis.

Built-in 1869, Bethel A.M.E. was situated in the heart of the African American community. Notable members include Madam C.J. Walker, Doctor Joseph Ward, Reverend Willis Revels, and Mercer Mance.

In addition to being a place of worship for members, the church served as a refuge for freedom seekers during slavery. In the years before the American Civil War, the congregation also played a role in helping freedom seekers find refuge. In the early 1900s, key organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Indiana State Federation of Colored Women’s clubs gathered at the church.

By the end of the 20th century, the church was a historical landmark, but membership was in decline. The building was sold in 2016 and turned into the hotel that’s there today. Many of the church’s distinctive features have been preserved from the pendant lights and stained glass to the historic staircase.

There are even artifacts throughout the years that will soon be on display. As for the congregation, it erected a new church known as ‘Bethel A.M.E. Cathedral‘ on Zionsville Road in 2018 after the historic building was sold.

If you would like more information on the church’s history, click here.