Archives Month 2022-Historic Places of Worship in New Orleans: Historic St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church, Historic Second Baptist Church, and Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church

The French and Spanish influences throughout the history of New Orleans cause many to associate New Orleans cultural practices with Catholicism, as many of the cultural celebrations that occur in the city are deeply rooted in Catholic religious practices. One only has to look as far as the city’s world-renowned Mardi Gras celebrations prior to the Catholic observance of Lent to make the connection. Despite the strong connection to Catholicism, New Orleans is the home of many religious traditions. Each group has their own unique history and connections with New Orleans and hold an important place in the history of the city.

Last week we highlighted three historic places of worship in our city. In our second blog celebrating National Archives Month, the Office of the Clerk of Civil District Court explores three additional of historic places of worship in New Orleans. We will detail their history as well as several notarial acts that highlight their presence in our historical records.

Historic St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church
Historic St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church at 222 N. Roman St. Photo Credit: Google Images, August 2021

Historic St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), which stands at 222 N. Roman Street, has a rich history in New Orleans which dates back to the 1840s. The African Methodist Episcopal Church, the donomination to which Historic St. James belongs, originated in 1787 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. By 1844, the African Methodist Episcopal Church had spread to the Deep South where Reverend Jordan Early inspired a group of free people of color to establish what would become St. James Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church.1 This church was incorporated in 1848 under private signature and on November 30, 1848 church leaders purchased two lots of ground from Antoine Carriere. In an Act of Sale before the notary Theodore Guyol, St. James AME as represented by Reverend Charles Doughty purchased lots 15 and 16 in Square 51 in Tremé fronting on Roman Street for the sum of $900.

Act of Sale from Antoine Carriere to the African Methodist Episcopal Church of New Orleans. Guyol, Theodore Vol 11, Act 687 1848 November 30

After this sale, the church began constructing the church building which was completed in 1851 and named St. James Chapel. During the time of its founding through the end of the Civil War, the congregation of St. James Chapel AME advocated for the abolition of slavery and was used as a waystation for the Underground Railroad.2 The church’s abolitionist activism led to police officers closing the church from 1858-1862.3

St. James Chapel AME purchased two more lots of land fronting on Roman Street on April 18, 1879, before the notary W.J. Castell. They purchased lots 13 and 14 in Square 51 for the sum of $700.

Act of Sale from Leontine Gilmore, et al. to St. James Chapel AME. Castell, W.J., Vol 58, Act 10500 1879 April 18

The site of St. James AME can be seen in the 1883 Robinson Atlas below. By 1883, the Square number had changed to 218.

Plate 7, Robinson Atlas, 1883

On December 15, 1880, representatives from St. James Chapel came before the notary Oscar Drouet to reincorporated the church, this time publicly. This four page charter has nine articles detailing the organization’s mission and goals. Article Three of the charter, seen below, states that the goal of the organization as being primarily for religious purposes.

Articles of Incorporation for St. James Chapel AME. Drouet, Oscar, Vol 14, Act 98, 1880 December 15

St. James AME amended this charter in 1903 before the notary Robert Legier in order to remove “chapel” from its name, making it simply St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church. St. James AME did have a number of notable members among its congregation including P.B.S. Pinchback who was the first African-African American governor of Louisiana. Today, St. James AME is known by the name of Historic St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church and the building is on the National Register of Historic Places.4

Historic Second Baptist Church
Historic Second Baptist Church at 2505 Marengo St. Photo Credit: Google Images, March 2022

The mid-century modern building that houses the Historic Second Baptist Church at 2505 Marengo Street dates from 1964, but the history of the congregation dates back to the mid-1800s. The Historic Second Baptist Church was originally called the Second African Baptist Church in the 1850s. As was the case with the First African Baptist Church, The Second African Baptist Church was also prevented from legally incorporating until after the Civil War, yet they functioned as a church body prior to that. The congregation of the Second African Baptist Church partnered with the white congregation of the First Baptist Church of New Orleans, who purchased property for them to be used as a church. In an act of sale before Michael Gernon on December 13, 1852, The First Baptist Church of New Orleans purchased a lot of ground in the First District in Square 278 bound by Solis (now Freret), Jacob (now S. Robertson), Thalia and Melpomene.5

Act of Sale to First Baptist Church of New Orleans. Gernon, Michael, Vol 5 Act 360 1852 December 13.

In a resolution attached to this act, the First Baptist Church of New Orleans states that the congregation had authorized the purchase of the property in order “to build a house of worship for Colored Baptists.” This resolution can be seen in the image below.

Resolution of the First Baptist Church of New Orleans. Attached to Act of Sale. Gernon, Michael, Vol 5, Act 360, 1852 December 13

Following the Civil War, the Second African Baptist Church officially incorporated their organization for religious purposes. They did so on April 20, 1866, before the notary Henry C. Dibble. On the first page of this charter, a note from James Fuller, the District Attorney of the First Judicial District of Louisiana, states that the charter is legal and valid. This page can be seen below.

Charter for the Second Baptist Church. Dibble, Henry C, Vol 1, Act 16, 1866 April 20

The church was incorporated at this time under the name of Second Baptist Church. A resolution from the congregation is attached to the charter which discusses the decision to remove the word “African” from the name. This resolution is below.

Name change resolution, attached to the charter for the Second Baptist Church. Dibble, Henry C. Vol 1, Act 16 1866 April 20.

This name change did not stick for long, however. On September 29, 1886, representatives from the Second Baptist Church came before the notary Theodore Guyol to reincorporated the church, under the name of the Second African Baptist Church, as can be seen in the first article of the charter.

Charter of the Second African Baptist Church. Guyol, Theodore, Vol 67A, Act 169, 1886 September 29

The Second African Baptist Church remained at the property on Melpomene Street, first acquired for their usage by the First Baptist Church of New Orleans in 1852, until 1961 when the Housing Authority of New Orleans claimed the land for a housing project. This is when the Second African Baptist Church moved to its current home at 2505 Marengo Street. From 1985, the church has gone by the name of the Historic Second Baptist Church. Today, the Historic Second Baptist Church remains an active congregation.6

Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church
Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church at 400 Verret Street. Photo Credit: http://www.neworleanschurches.com/hnmary/hnmary.htm

Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church, located at 400 Verret Street, was the first Catholic parish in Algiers. The parish was first established in 1848 and was named St. Bartholomew. In 1872, the parish changed its name to Holy Name of Mary. The following year, the parish built a wood-framed church a few blocks from the current site. This original site located in Square 82 in Algiers as shown on the 1883 Robinson Atlas, which can be viewed below.

Plate 25, Robinson Atlas, 1883

Holy Name of Mary continued to utilize this location until 1927, when prior hurricane damage and other structural issues caused the original church to be replaced.7 The following year, on December 3, 1928, representatives of the congregation of the Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church appeared before the notary William Hennessey to file a building contract to build a new church. In this contract, which takes up an entire volume, Holy Name of Mary hired the Geo. J. Glover Company to construct their church within the budget of $180,584.

Building Contract between the congregation of the Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church and the Geo. J. Glover Company. Hennessey, William, 1928 December 3

This contract includes a 48 page specifications booklet that details every aspect of the building materials and processes. It also includes 26 blueprints consisting of roof plans, floor plans, and various elevations. The blueprint for the south elevation can be seen below.

Blueprint 7, South Elevation. Attached to Building Contract for Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church. Hennessey, William, 1928 December 3

The neo-gothic structure was completed and dedicated on November 25, 1929 and it is still the building that serves the parish to this day. Today, Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church serves a diverse membership of approximately 1000 families.8

These records are just a sampling of what the Clerk’s office has to offer when researching various places of worship. If there are any particular interests that you would like to learn more about, please contact the Clerk’s Office. We are happy to assist. Be sure to check back next week for our next Archives Month Blog.

References:
  1. “A History of Historic St. James AME Church,” About Us, Historic St. James AME Church, access June 27, 2022, http://www.stjamesameno.com/about-us/
  2. “Some New Orleans Black History You Should Know,” United Teachers of New Orleans, accessed August 16, 2022, http://utno.la.aft.org/new-orleans-black-history/some-new-orleans-black-history-you-should-know
  3. “A History of Historic St. James AME Church,” About Us, Historic St. James AME Church, access June 27, 2022, http://www.stjamesameno.com/about-us/
  4. “A History of Historic St. James AME Church,” About Us, Historic St. James AME Church, access June 27, 2022, http://www.stjamesameno.com/about-us/
  5. Sally K Reeves, “History of the Second African Baptist Church in New Orleans,” Presentation to the Louisiana Historical Society, October 11, 2016.
  6. Sally K Reeves, “History of the Second African Baptist Church in New Orleans,” Presentation to the Louisiana Historical Society, October 11, 2016.
  7. “A Brief History of Holy Name of Mary,” History, Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church, accessed June 20, 2022, https://holynameofmarynola.org/history
  8. “A Brief History of Holy Name of Mary,” History, Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church, accessed June 20, 2022, https://holynameofmarynola.org/history

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