1528 Sumter Street Columbia South Carolina 29201
[Historic] Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church is significant as the work of John Anderson Lankford, one of the first registered African American architects in the United States, and official architect for the A.M.E. Church. Lankford received training in engineering, mechanics and construction arts at Lincoln Institute, and after graduation became part owner of a blacksmith shop. His work caught the attention of Booker T. Washington, who invited him to Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Following a distinguished academic career, Lankford taught for a time at Tuskegee. Lankford went on to teach at other technical institutes in Alabama and in North Carolina, where he designed his first building, a machine shop for the Coleman Cotton Mills in Concord, North Carolina. By 1901 Lankford had acquired a respected reputation for buildings in several states.
The church is a monumental Romanesque Revival brick church building built in 1921. The church has a rectangular plan with a gable roof and two towers on its façade. The north tower is three stages above the basement, while the south is two stages. The north tower has a tripartite stained glass window beneath a semicircular arch at its first stage; three windows of stepped height, corresponding to an interior staircase, at its second stage; and an open belfry with a tripartite arcade on the third level. Each tower terminates in a brick parapet, resting upon corbelled brickwork, with tall pyramidal roofs crowning the whole. The center of the façade has a large round-arched window with three arched windows and two roundels beneath an encompassing semicircular arch, and a tripartite louvered vent beneath the gable end. (Source: United States Department of Interior, Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service Nomination Form as submitted by the Owners: The African Methodist Episcopal Church, % Dr. J. Arthur Holmes and the Trustees of Bethel AME Church).