50 for 50: St. James A.M.E. Zion Church
St. James A.M.E. Zion Church was chartered in 1833 by a group of African American Methodists who had previously attended “colored class” Sunday School at Ithaca’s First Methodist Episcopal Church. St. James is central to the history of Ithaca’s African American community; most notably, it is believed to have been a station on Ithaca’s Underground Railroad network and was host to prominent figures in the abolition movement, including Frederick Douglas and Harriet Tubman. Historic Ithaca had a decades-long relationship with the congregation for preservation of its building, beginning, in 1981, with an extensive exterior restoration. The building was listed as a local landmark in 1975 and on the National and State Registers of Historic Places in 1982. Because the congregation’s original stone meetinghouse remains intact within the current strucutre, St. James AME Zion Church is the oldest standing church building in Ithaca.