February 11, 2024
Pennsylvania African Methodist Episcopal Church Reopens As A Black History Museum
The African Methodist Episcopal Church was a pillar of the Black community ever since it opened in 1880.
After being burned down almost 30 years ago, the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, was restored into a museum on Feb 3. Pandora Anderson Campbell, who grew up in the church, opened up to CNN about the history of the place and how it felt to be back.
Campbell recalled the church being a place from the local community in the past, where locals gathered around to worship and eat pies that her very own grandmother would bake.
“I could feel the spirit of the ancestors. I don’t know how to explain it,” Campbell told the outlet.
“It was a pillar to the community. People came from everywhere to worship,” Campbell continued, telling CNN that the congregation was predominantly Black.
West Chester Mayor-Elect Lillian DeBaptiste agreed with Campbell’s sentiments. She said, “It was a little slice of heaven. They were so full of hospitality … as is African American tradition, celebrating not only in spirit but with food. I remember the wonderful, plentiful food.”
The African Methodist Episcopal church was built in 1880 and was where farm workers and their families could gather and keep as their own. As more people moved out to find better jobs, the AME was abandoned in the 1980s, and then, soon after, it was destroyed in a fire.
Slowly, the church was restored piece by piece after the Township of Concord purchased the property and began efforts to preserve the building due to its deep cultural history. Through a decade of work and almost $500,000, the Spring Valley African Methodist Episcopal church reopened on Saturday as an African American history museum.
The historical society has decided to protect the church through the Concord Township Historic Preservation Ordinance. They’ve already begun to collect artifacts and prepare new exhibits to display in the museum.
“I hope that when they open it up 100 years from now, or whenever they do it, they’re one race, and that’s the human race. Not divided by the color of your skin,” Campbell said. “This story speaks of the spirit of the church, and the importance that it had in the past, and is now seemingly going to have in the future.”