Early Churches and SynagoguesMore churches, historically African American
An inventory of church records in DC is contained in the following publications, available at the Library of Congress, Washington Historical Society, and Washingtoniana Collection of Martin Luther King Library, among other sources: A Directory of Churches and Religious Organization in the District of Columbia, 1939, and Inventory of the Church Archives in the District of Columbia: the Protestant Episcopal Church, Washington Diocese. These two inventories were done under WPA auspices.
The older houses of worship in the District include, but are not limited to, the following. Many thanks to Jane Donovan for contributions related to the Methodist Churches and Cemeteries of the DC & Georgetown area.
African Methodist Episcopal
Metropolitan A.M.E. Church (1854)1518 M. St. NW
Founded 1854 by breakaway congregations from two earlier churches: Israel Bethel A.M.E. and Union Bethel A.M.E. Now Nat. Hq. of A.M.E. Church
John Wesley A.M.E. Church (1850's)1615 14th St., NW
Church built in 1850's
First Colored Baptist Church (demolished)site at 19th and Eye, NW
In 1833, this congregation took over this site, which been originally occupied by DC's first Baptist congregation. In 1871-1975, the Nineteenth St. Baptist Church was based here until it was demolished to make way for office development.
Shiloh Baptist (1862)1500 9th St., NW
Congregation established in 1862 in various temporary facilities by congregation which migrated en masse from Fredericksburg, VA. Permanent building built 1924.
EpiscopalThe Episcopal Diocese of Washington, Tel: (202) 537-6555 can advise on merging of churches, successor congregations and general local church history matters. For help with records of churches no longer in existence, contact Susan Stonesifer, Historiographer. In addition, transcribed records for many area churches are in the Genealogical Records Committee volumes for DC at the DAR Library.
Christ Episcopal Church (1794)620 G. St. SE
Congregation founded 1794, oldest in original DC boundaries north of river. The Church was started in Daniel Carroll's tobacco barn. Located on Capitol Hill at New Jersey Ave. near D St. SE. In the beginning "Preachers of every sect and denomination of Christians were there admitted--Catholics, Unitarians, Quakers with every intervening diversity of sect. Even women were allowed to display their pulpit eloquence, in this national Hall." wrote Margaret Bayard Smith. Church built 1807 by Benjamin Latrobe.
(pre Civil War)
Grace Episcopal (1866)1041 Wisconsin Ave., NW
Mission to watermen on the C&O Canal
St. John's (1816)16th St. at Lafayette Square, NW
Called the "Church of the Presidents", significant architectural landmark.
St. John's, Georgetown (1794)3240 O St. NW
Built in 1809 by William Thornton, architect of the Capitol. Congregation formed in 1794, founder Rev. Walter Dulany Addison. Originally parent church of St. St. John's Lafayette Sq.
St. Luke's (1879)1514 15th St., NW
Built in 1879, is one of the oldest remaining church buildings built for a black congregation.
St. Mary's (1886)728-730 23rd St., NW
built 1886 for black Episcopalians from two other congregations, Church of the Epiphany and St.John's Lafayette Sq., Architect, James Renwick
St. Paul's Rock Creek (1712)Rock Creek Cemetery, Rock Creek Church Rd., NW
Oldest church in DC, built 1775. Congregation dates from 1712 of which the origins can be traced back to when the leaders of Piscataway Parish ordered their rector to preach at the Eastern Branch Church once a month.
Christ Church (1767)N. Columbus St., between King and Cameron, Alexandria when it was part of DC (1800- 1846)
Est. 1767, oldest church in Alexandria, and with the Falls Church in the town of the same name, one of the two oldest churches in the area. George Washington and Robert E. Lee's home church. Interesting old graveyard, and one of the architectural treasures of the DC area.
St. Paul's Church (1830's)Old Town Alexandria
1830's break-away congregation from Christ Church
Adas Israel Synagogue (1870)701 3rd St., NW
Congregation est. 1870, building dates from 1873-76. Oldest Synagogue in DC, now a museum. Original congregation was a break-away from the Washington Hebrew Congregation, now housed in a much newer building
(Address from 1909 DC City Directory)
Rabbi Moses R. YOELSON was the first leader of the congregation. By 1914 he had been succeeded by Rabbi Moses A. HORWITZ. More information from "Washington at Home," Kathryn Schneider Smith, ed., 1988: "By the 1890s, Jewish immigrants were holding religious services with a cantor and rabbi, Moses Yoelson. In 1906 they dedicated a synagogue, the Talmud Torah congregation. One of the rabbi's sons, (later know as) Al Jolson, became a leading American entertainer."
Washington Hebrew CongregationClearly predates Adas Israel, from the above description. Phone Adas Israel museum for more details or check with the Jewish Genealogical Society of DC
More details and photos online at Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington.
Concordia Lutheran Evangelical Church (1833)(NOW United Church)
920 G. ST., NW
Est. 1833 by a German speaking congregation. The Church is now the last within the old German community of Foggy Bottom. Merged with Union United Methodist Church in the 1970's. Building is now owned by George Washington University and is adjacent to Tower Records. The two types of services at United are in English and German languages.
Georgetown Lutheran Church (1770)Wisconsin Ave and Volta Pl, NW
Originally founded in 1770. Current building built on site of earlier church, which was built of logs. George Washington reportedly occasionally worshipped there.
Zion Lutheran ChurchCorner of 6th and P St. NW (in existence as of 1912-1918).
MethodistThe Wesley Theological Seminary Library on Massachusetts Avenue, Tel: (202) 885-8695 has extensive collections on the history of the Methodist Church, including records of the former Methodist Protestant Church. They can generally advise where a church's name has changed, or on the name of a successor church when congregations have merged, and they have several parish membership rosters from the late 19th - early 20th century.
Washington, DC 20001-4488
Asbury was established in 1836 when a small group of "Negro" worshippers elected to leave Foundry Methodist Church on 16th Street, in NW Washington, DC. The congregation is currently in its 166th year of continuous ministry. The Church which is included in both The District of Columbia Inventory of Historical Sites and The National Registry of Historical Places, is located on its original site in downtown Washington, DC at the corner of 11th & K Streets, NW.
Formerly Metropolitan Methodist Episcopal Church (demolished) at C. St., and John Marshall Place, NW
|Mount Vernon Place UMC|
Piney Grove, started 1898, became Faith in 1908
United (Methodist / Lutheran) ChurchMerged in the 1970's. The Methodist half of the congregation was Union United Methodist Church. The building is now owned by George Washington University, adjacent to Tower Records. The two types of services at United are in English and German languages.
920 G. St., NW
Historic early African American congregation, established in 1841. The noted abolitionist, Grimke, was the pastor here. Moved to present building in 1979, a former Christian Science Church built in 1918.
First Presbyterian Church (1827)formerly at John Marshall Place between C and D
The congregation was founded in 1827 and was attended by three Presidents. Demolished in the 1930's.
St. Andrews (demolished)(10th and F, NW)
Established in 1794, it was one of the first, if not the first churches in the new Federal City. It was demolished around 1900 to make way for the expansion of Woodward & Lothrop.
Roman CatholicThe Archdiocese of Washington, Tel: (301) 853-3800, can advise on early Catholic history, consolidation of parishes, dates of creation of new parishes and on the location of records. They can also assist genealogists tracking relatives who joined various Catholic religious orders. The Special Collections Division of the Georgetown University Library has extensive records of the early Catholic church in Maryland, specifically of the Jesuits. The early parish registers of Holy Trinity Church and the plot book of Holy Rood Cemetery are in this library.
Holy Trinity (1794)36th and O Sts., NW
Oldest Catholic Church in Washington. Congregation founded 1794, current building dates to 1849. Old building still standing a block away, now Convent of the Visitation (convent not open to public) Old Parish records are kept in Georgetown University Library.
Immaculate Conception (1864)8th Street and N Street, NW
St. Aloysius's (1859)19 Eye Street NW
St. Ann's (1866)4001 Yuma Street NW
St. Augustine's (1858)1419 V St., NW
Oldest black Catholic congregation in Washington. Founded in 1858, first permanent building was built 1867. In 1961, congregation merged with St. Paul's, which had been on the V St., site since 1898.
St. Dominick's (1852)(SW DC, near Freeway)
630 E. St., SW, Washingotn, DC
A Southwest DC Catholic community, served since its foundation in 1852 by the Dominican Friars
St. Joseph's - Capital Hill (1868)2nd and C Streets, NE; Thanks to Casey Purcell who sent in this addition to the list of churches--says it dates back to at least 1885 when his grandfather was baptized there.
St. Mary's (1845)727 5th St NW
St. Matthew's (1840)1725 Rhode Island Ave NW
St. Patrick's (1794)10th & G St., NW
Serving the Downtown area, second oldest Catholic church in DC, congregation founded in 1794, marriage records begin in 1807, baptisms in 1811, interments from April 15, 1860. Note: they have a volunteer who comes in once a week to deal with record requests.
St. Peter's (1821)2nd and C Sts., SE
Founded 1821, formed from St. Patrick's parish on land donated by Daniel Carroll, of Duddington Manor. Current church (second on site) built in 1889.
St. Stephen's (1867)2436 Pennsylvania Ave NW, 20037
Originally organized as the First Unitarian Church, was first located on 6th & D., NW. Moved to 14th and L in 1877, when name was changed. Current building dates from 1924.
Seventh Day AdventistsArchive in Silver Spring, MD , tel. (301) 680-5020. Has records of some member obituaries from Adventist publications.
Various Germanic DenominationsThe Menno Simons Historical Library in Harrisonburg, VA , tel: (540) 432-4178, has some church records of interest to those with DC German ancestry, including records of the Reformed Church, Lutheran Church and Anabaptists in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, and can advise on the history of particular churches and potential successor churches.
In the old book "Reminiscences of the District of Columbia or Washington City Seventy-Nine Years Ago, 1830-1909" by early DC resident Sarah E. Vedder she mentions many of the old churches which existed in the DC area during the years that she resided there. Perhaps you will find one of the tidbits of information she related in her book helpful in your research.
Mrs. Vedder begins on page 69 of her book describing various DC churches of the period as follows:
At this time the churches were not very numerous. The oldest one, I suppose, was the Foundry, corner Fourteenth and G Streets. Dr. Laurie's Presbyterian Church, on F, between Fourteenth and Fifteenth. Rev. Obediah B. Brown's Baptist, on Tenth, between F and G, next north of the Medical College and in the neighborhood of Ford's theatre, where Lincoln was assassinated in after years. St. Patrick's Catholic, corner Tenth and G, with Female Orphan Asylum opposite, or nearly so. The Methodist Protestant, or Radical Church, on Eleventh Street, between F and G. I remember going to that church one Sabbath evening to listen to the Rev. Thomas Stockton, his subject was: "Beauties of the New Jerusalem." He was very tall and slender and, as he stood in the pulpit, looked ghostly. He held the attention of the congregation more than two hours. At any time you could have heard a pin fall. The people were packed like sardines in a box, more than three-fourths were standing. When he ended, his voice almost in a whisper, his arms elevated, he looked as if he were ready to ascend to the beautiful land he had so eloquently described. Everyone drew a long breath, or sigh, and retired from the church without remark.
Dr. Gurley's Presbyterian, corner New York Avenue and H Streets. St. Matthew's Catholic, corner H and Fourteenth. St. John's Episcopal, corner Fifteenth and a half and H, called Parson Hawley's Church. Asbury Chapel, Negro Methodist, northeast from St. Matthew's. Ryland Chapel, Methodist, in the "Northern Liberties." Union Chapel, Methodist, corner Twentieth and H. Colored Baptist Church, corner Nineteenth and T. The German Lutheran, on G, between Nineteenth and Twentieth. The Union Chapel and St. Matthew's were new, scarcely finished at this time. There was a Unitarian Church, and another, called the Metropolitan Methodist, in the neighborhood of the City Hall, or, on Four and a half street, in the eastern part of the city."