15. St. Philip’s Episcopal Church (1911)

St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Harlem

St. Philip’s Episcopal Church on West 134th Street is the oldest black Episcopal parish in New York City, founded in 1809 by free African Americans. The church was originally named the Free African Church of St. Philip and was first located in the Five Points neighborhood, before moving north to Harlem. The church’s first rector was Rev. Peter Williams, Jr., an abolitionist who also supported free black emigration to Haiti and served on the executive committee of the American Anti-Slavery Society.

Many of the church’s members were pioneers in their fields, including many teachers, doctors, restauranteurs, and marine traders. The church would suffer damage in the mid-1800s due to vandalism by whites and by the NYPD during the 1863 Draft Riots. The church moved to Harlem in the early 1900s and was designed by Tandy & Foster, prominent African-American architects, in the Neo-Gothic style. The church included among its parishioners Dr. James McCune Smith, the first African American to hold a medical degree. Among its members were W.E.B. DuBois, Thurgood Marshall, and Langston Hughes.