Cultural Heritage Tours

A project of the ETHNIC HERITAGE CENTER

Downtown Tour

Temple Street Congregational Church and B’nai Jacob Synagogue

105 Temple Street

(demolished)

Temple Street Congregational Church and B'nai Jacob Synagogue, c. 1910. Courtesy B'nai Jacob One Hundred Years, Jewish Historical Society Archives.

In 1820, Blacks in New Haven were relegated at worship to the balcony of the First Congregational Church, located on the New Haven Green. A group of Black worshippers persuaded Simeon Smith Jocelyn (1799-1879) a white abolitionist and Yale student, to conduct religious services with them at his home. Four men and eighteen women, including Bias Stanley, Dorcas Lanson, Nicholas Cisco, and Adeline Cooper, came together as the first Black congregation in New Haven.

In 1824, the congregation organized as the African Ecclesiastical Society and purchased a building at 105 Temple Street. On August 25, 1829, the Western Association of New Haven County formally recognized the Temple Street Congregational Church and ordained Simeon Jocelyn as its minister. He served in that position until 1834.

Other noted pastors of the Temple Street Church included James W. C. Pennington, a former slave, noted orator, writer and abolitionist who wrote what is considered the first history of Blacks in the United States, “The Origin and History of the Colored People” (1841). The Rev. Amos G. Beman, pastor of the Temple Street Church from 1838 to 1857, was a noted temperance lecturer, anti-slavery agitator, agent and station master of the Underground Railway, and tireless worker for Negro Suffrage in Connecticut. His papers and scrapbooks are archived in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.

The Rev. Albert President Miller was pastor of the Temple Street Congregational Church when the congregation purchased the old North Church Mission Chapel at 100 Dixwell Avenue and moved there in 1886. The Temple Street building was sold in 1885 to Congregation B’nai Jacob, founded in 1882 by Jewish immigrants from Russia. It continued in use until 1912, when the congregation moved to a new synagogue erected at 347 George Street.

  • Text source courtesy Margo Taylor, Chair Dixwell Church History Committee, and Jewish Historical Society of Greater New Haven Archives.

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