NYC: John Street United Methodist Church
The John Street United Methodist Church, at 44 John Street, is home to the oldest Methodist Congregation in America, founded in 1766 as the Wesleyan Society of America.
The story of the John Street Church begins in Ireland, where Philip Embury, his wife, his cousin, Barbara Ruckle Heck, and her husband were converted to Methodism. Philip Embury became one of Wesley's local preachers. In 1760, a number of Irish Methodists, including the Emburys and the Hecks, immigrated to New York City. In October 1766, Philip Embury began holding regular services in his home. The services soon outgrew the Embury home, and the Methodist Society began meeting in rented facilities; first on Barrack Street and then on Horse and Cart (now William) Street. Embury was soon joined in the pulpit by Captain Thomas Webb, a British officer and a licensed Methodist lay preacher. By 1768, the congregation had outgrown the rigging loft, and on March 30, 1768, two lots on nearby John Street were purchased. The first building erected on this site was called Wesley Chapel and was dedicated on October 30, 1768. The Hecks and Emburys left New York in 1770, but the work at John Street continued. Francis Asbury preached there numerous times, and early General Conferences held their sessions in the chapel. A slave named Peter Williams was one of many African American members of Philip Embury's society. He became sexton of Wesley Chapel and, with James Varick and others, formed what later became the Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.
In 1817 the chapel was torn down to make way for a larger structure, dedicated in 1818. A third (and smaller) edifice was erected in 1841 and is still in use today. The well-proportioned Georgian-inspired building with a brownstone facade is attributed to Charles Wright.
The John Street Methodist Church was designated a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1965.
National Register #73001219 (1973)