St. James African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church Building
Address: 3600 Snelling Avenue
Architect: Irwin H. Kilstofte
Architectural Style: Vernacular with Mid-Century Modern Influences
Historic Use: Church
Current Use: Church
Date of Local Designation: 2018
Date of National Register Designation: N/A
Area(s) of Significance: Significant Events
Period of Significance: 1863-1963
As the first African American congregation in Minneapolis and Minnesota, St. James AME Church is historically significant to the city and state’s social history. The importance of African American congregations in America stems from the disenfranchisement of early African American communities. With few historical or cultural traditions surviving slavery, the church offered a vital cultural institution to the African American community. It became an imperative facet of early African American life in America, where communities were able to find newfound freedom and support they were otherwise restricted from. As African American populations grew in Minnesota, the church’s role evolved. Combined with Christian beliefs and supported by the church’s power in the community, congregations began fighting injustice and for the advancement of African Americans within the greater urban center. Launched by the establishment of St. James AME Church, the influence the African American congregation gave to its members has had a lasting effect on the social history of Minneapolis and Minnesota.
St James’ origins date to 1860, prior to the Civil War, when a group of freed African Americans started conducting house-to-house prayer meetings in the city of St. Anthony. These early gatherings began in the home of Paul Brown at 4th Avenue SE and 2nd Street and included his wife, their two daughters, Isaac Newton, and Mattie Williams. It is believed that many of these early members came to Minnesota traveling as workers on Mississippi steamers from 1836 to 1856. By March 1863, this small group had grown enough to formally organize the First African Methodist Church, later renamed St. James AME Church. In 1869, the church acquired a formal place of worship and a pastor, Reverend W. Hedgeman. Located at 6th Avenue Southeast and 2nd Street, the first church edifice was a small white frame building that had previously served a white congregation. Minneapolis city directories indicate the church and Reverend Hedgeman stayed at this location until around 1874. However, financial difficulties and unfortunate luck in real estate caused the church to relocate several times, slowly migrating south within the city.
St. James AME Church is currently at 3600 Snelling Avenue, where it has been since 1959. The current church is the only remaining church building that St. James AME constructed and is the longest place of worship for the congregation.
1963 - Minnesota Historical Society
2017 - CPED Staff
“St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church Designation Study,” 2018.
Updated: April 2018
Last updated Feb 11, 2019