The Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church resides on a parcel of land located on the corner of Sixth and Lombard Streets, that was purchased in 1791 by Richard Allen. The first structure was an old blacksmith shop which was converted into a place of worship and dedicated in 1794. In 1805, a second larger structure and additional land were needed to accommodate the growing membership. By 1841, the third church was newer and built of bricks and stone. The fourth church, a finer structure, was dedicated in October 1890. Over time the church has been refurbished and upgrades have been made, but the Church has never left its original site. More than two centuries and four buildings later, Mother Bethel continues to serve the African American community and others who pass through the church doors by providing the spiritual, educational, social and civic needs of the people.
As early as 1876, the church began a systematic effort to organize its materials and in 1912 established a Historical Commission for the purpose of collecting, preserving and cataloging its holdings. As part of these efforts, the Richard Allen Museum was established and includes over one hundred items on display and receives thousands of visitors annually.
In the early 1990s, attention was given to the historical documents and space was made available to house the materials. Some of the major holdings include minutes of the Board of Trustees, Board of Stewards and various organized groups in the church; records of conferences and a limited amount of printed meetings of the African Methodist Episcopal denomination; funeral programs; information about prominent leaders of the church and denomination; photographs; scrap books; Bibles; and books. The bulk of the collection covers the time period 1820s through the1990s. The early period is sparse and contains a limited amount of original documents. However, the strength of the collection includes a photograph collection that has images of many of the AME leaders, historical images of the Mother Bethel AME church when it was known as the “Bethel Church” and a funeral program collection that is good for descendants of the church and genealogists in general. Detailed information about the history of the church and a finding aid can be found at Mother Bethel's African Methodist Episcopal Church website www.motherbethel.com
Margaret Jerrido was hired, in 2008, to be the archivist on a part time basis. The Archives is open, by appointment, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11:00 to 2:00. Researchers, students, historians, genealogists and all those interested in the history of the Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Church denomination and its people may 215/925-0616 or email www.motherbethel.com for an appointment. Tours of the church and museum are provided, by appointment, to individuals or groups Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and after the 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. services on Sundays.