National Register of Historic Places – Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church

November 1, 2018, National Register of Historic Places

The ‘National Register’ is a phenomenal source of information regarding historic homes.  Search their database and you will find 49 properties as of November 1, 2018.

The following ‘Register’ entry is dated February 27, 1995:

The Allen Chapel A.M.E. stands immediately east of the historic City Cemetery at 224 South Maney Ave. in Murfreesboro (pop. 44,922), Rutherford County, Tennessee.  The one-story brick building, constructed in 1889, has a brick foundation and a gable asphalt shingle roof.  The church is vernacular in its architectural style, representing a type common in the late nineteenth century that has been described as “gable-end” by architectural historians Herbert Gottfried and Jan Jennings.

The east facade has a three-bay organization (window-entrance window) common for the gable-end vernacular type. The tall narrow double hung one-over-one windows are framed by a brick segmental arch lintel.  The original entrance door was replaced by double wooden paneled doors in about 1937-1940, a period when considerable architectural modernization of the church took place.  Flanking the door are brick classical pilasters.  At the
same time, a new one-story portico and porch was added to the entrance.  The pediment has a gable, asphalt shingle roof supported by single wooden classical columns.  A wrought-iron stair rail was added to the porch in about 1975.

A ventilation grill is located in the center of the facade, near the point of the gable roof.  Two decorative brick supports for the roof are evident near the end of the roof slope on the north and south side of this facade.

The north elevation is almost unchanged since its original construction; the only alteration is the addition of an air conditioning unit near the northeast corner of the building in about 1975.  The elevation has four bays of double-hung one-over one narrow windows, divided by five brick buttresses, creating a vernacular Gothic Revival effect.  Connecting the wall to the roof are regularly spaced brick dentils.

The west elevation has an original small pastor’s study, which is topped by a hipped asphalt shingle roof, centered in a solid brick wall.  The study’s three-sided projection has a centered double hung four-over-four window on each side. To the immediate south of the study projection is the original rear entrance to the building.  The wooden door frame is original but the door itself dates to about 1940.  A limestone step leads to the door.

Alien Chapel A.M.E. Church, Rutherford Co., TN,  The south elevation is almost an exact match of the north elevation.  The differences are that a small frame storage shed (c. 1975) has been added just under the northeast window and this elevation contains the building’s only surviving chimney stack, also near the northeast corner.

The interior spaces of the church are largely intact, although materials, ceilings, and the altar and choir stand have been altered in the mid to late twentieth century.  Carpet has been added over the original floors throughout most of the church.

Upon entering the church, you encounter a small vestibule.  To the north are two rooms for the ladies lounge and restroom.  To the south is the men’s restroom, which is also partially used for the storage of church records.  Both of these interior restrooms date to a renovation of the church from about 1937 to 1940.

At the southeast corner of the vestibule is a circa 1980 door that leads up an original (1889) staircase to the Sunday School classroom.  This room was originally the balcony to the church, which was filled in and changed into a classroom during the 1937 to 1940 renovations.  The simple wood paneling enclosing the balcony is clearly evident and could be easily removed if the congregation ever chose to restore the balcony space.  Also evident in the classroom is some of the original wooden ceiling detailing that has been covered over in the main sanctuary by a
drop ceiling.

The original wooden panel doors that lead into the sanctuary remain in place; carpet now covers most of the floor.  The size of the sanctuary is unaltered from original construction, but a drop ceiling was added during the 1937-1940 renovation.  The eight light fixtures date from that modernization of the interior.  The church pews are also from the 1930s, purchased from a Murfreesboro white church and added to the building at that time.  The pulpit, altar and choir stand were modernized in about 1980; faux wood paneling covers the original plaster wall and a decorative Gothic arch that framed the pulpit.  As part of this 1980 renovation, a new door was added to provide access to
the pastor’s study.  The interior of this space remains an intact arrangement of three chambers.  The north chamber is the actual study; the middle chamber is a small restroom (added during 1937-40); and the south chamber is used as storage space for the choir.

Twentieth century demands for modern comforts (electricity and air-conditioning) and new seating, consequently, have altered the original appearance of the church’s interior of the late nineteenth century.  The majority of changes took place in the late 1930s when the congregation decided that room for Sunday school instruction was imperative for the future growth of the church.  At the same time, the congregation has always carefully preserved the simple, yet compelling, architectural dignity of the church’s exterior.

Recent developments demonstrate that this respect for the past will continue into the future.  Currently, the  congregation is exploring ways of expanding the church’s service to the public.  Concerns that these plans might further compromise the architectural integrity of the church led to a postponement of the completion of this nomination.  Congregation members understand and appreciate the original beauty and historical continuity of the church and when and if the congregation expands its service to the public, it plans to do so in a way compatible
and sympathetic to the original church.

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