Cultural Heritage Tours

A project of the ETHNIC HERITAGE CENTER

Lower Dixwell Tour

Varick African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

242 Dixwell Avenue

Varick African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church c. 1940. Courtesy Joe Taylor.

The Varick African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church was organized in 1818 when more than thirty African Americans, supported by Bishop James Varick of New York, left the Methodist Church to form their own congregation—the earliest African American church in New Haven, the third oldest in the A.M.E.Z. denomination, and one of the oldest African American churches in the nation.

The church purchased its first permanent building in 1841, on the corner of Broad and Hospital Streets in the Hill neighborhood, but tragically it burned one year later. In 1866, the congregation bought a Methodist church building on East Pearl Street, which was moved from Fair Haven to Foote Street in the Dixwell neighborhood in 1872. The present building was constructed in 1908. In 1915, Booker T. Washington made his final public speech here just a month before his death. In 1990 the church purchased the adjacent property at 246 Dixwell. The Varick A.M.E. Zion Church is purportedly known as a New Haven Underground Railroad site.

  • Text source courtesy Greater New Haven African American Historical Society.

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