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Looking down West Alley towards North Street from State Street. Boys with wagons gather in the foreground. The building to the left is the Bethel AME Church. To the right is Glenn Manufacturing. A small sign down the alley advertises aprons.

Photo: Historical Society of Dauphin County

The Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church

By 1858, the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church had a "flourishing congregation." The church's first home was a log structure located on Short Street below South Street, which was later replaced with a frame structure that was being used as offices for the Harrisburg Steam Heat and Power Company in 1913. In 1891, the congregation moved to a lot bought by William K. Alricks at the corner of State Street and West Avenue, as seen in the photograph at left. Although construction of the church began in 1891, the interior of the church was not completed until 1894, and the total construction costs were estimated at $23,000.

Of this church and Wesley Union AME Zion Church, journalist J. Howard Wert remarked, "the two colored churches in the Eighth Ward are trophies of the perseverance of a race whose pathway to the light of freedom's day was strewn with thorns and baptized with blood and tears." Wert went on to say, "these temples of God have been bright oases in a Ward where there was much sin." Although other ethnic populations moved in and out of the 8th Ward during its history, the neighborhood always maintained its black community, perhaps owing to the strength of the churches mentioned by Wert.

(Summarized from an article written by J. Howard Wert for the Harrisburg Patriot newspaper on January 6, 1913, and reprinted in Harrisburg's Old Eighth Ward, edited by Michael Barton and Jessica Dorman, (Charleston: Arcadia, 2002), 43-45.)

 

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