In honor of Black History Month, the Fayetteville History Museum is highlighting Saint Joseph’s Episcopal Church. The church was officially chartered in 1873, which means it is celebrating its 150th anniversary.
Saint Joseph’s Episcopal Church, located at 509 Ramsey Street, is the second oldest Episcopal congregation in Fayetteville and the oldest African American Episcopal congregation.
According to Saint Joseph’s, in the late 1860s, several founding members were also involved in the founding or operation of the Howard School, which evolved into the first State Normal School (teachers’ school) in North Carolina. This later became Fayetteville State University. Saint Joseph’s parochial school was separate and one of the first local schools for people of African descent.
The church later was the space that held USO and NAACP meetings for Black residents of Fayetteville.
Heidi Bleazey, the Historic and Natural Resources Manager at the Fayetteville History Museum, says the church was vital to the community.
“There’s this beautiful nestled church in this corner of a busy, busy Ramsey Street that so many people drive by. And then you consider 150 years of not only building a faith community on that space but building a community and bringing to the needs of that community,” Bleazey said.
The church has survived three fires. The first fire was in 1917, which destroyed the first rectory and parish house. The second fire in 2005 destroyed their large gazebo.
The most recent fire in 2015 severely damaged the quarter of the church nearest the main entrance and the entire sanctuary was damaged due to water from the fire. The church was restored in 2017.
The church is known for its Queen Anne-style architecture, the stained windows from Tiffany & Co., and a pipe organ that was built in 1857. The organ was damaged in the 2015 fire but has been restored and now uses electricity.
The church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
“These old buildings are register buildings, they’re seen as spaces where time is frozen, and this is a unique space where time continues to move, and people continue to live and breathe life into that space. But it's also a snapshot into the past at the same time there,” Bleazey said.
“But here are people that are doing daily church business there. And suddenly, it’s the longevity of the community, and the congregation are why that building and that congregation have reached the age that they have,” she said.
“That’s why they're celebrating 150 years, and their commitment to service and the community is kept active and kept them functional and kept that building of importance.”
Saint Joseph’s will be celebrating 150 years as a parish on May 26 through May 28. They will be preparing an Anniversary Book to commemorate this historic occasion.
“We plan to do a mayoral proclamation for the Sunday that’s closest to the 28th,” Bleazey said. The celebration is ongoing, and the Fayetteville History Museum exhibit will be up for a year.
She added that the parish of Saint Joseph’s intends to celebrate all year long as well. The Fayetteville History Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is free to the public. The Fayetteville History Museum is located at 325 Franklin Street in downtown Fayetteville. The museum is part of the Historic and Natural Resources of Fayetteville Cumberland Parks and Recreation.
For more information, visit www.fcpr.us/historymuseum or call 910-433-1457.