Wendell P. Dabney      

Guide to African American Resources
at the Cincinnati History Library and Archives




Subject Categories



Cincinnati History
Library and Archives

Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal










Allen Temple A.M.E. Church

In the early 19th century, some African Americans in Cincinnati worshiped at the white Methodist Episcopal churches but were treated in a discriminatory manner. Following one camp-meeting, African Americans Rev. James King and Rev. Phillip Brodie decided they could no longer tolerate the prejudicial treatment they had received. In 1824, soon after hearing of the new A.M.E. church, they founded Cincinnati’s A.M.E. congregation

As the small group grew, it relocated to several different buildings near the African American district of 6th and Broadway. Some of the early churches were called "Little Red Church on the Green," "Old Lime House," "Bethel Creek," and "Allen Chapel," named after A.M.E. founder, Rev. Richard Allen.

  Allen Temple A.M.E. Church
General Photo Collection
Cincinnati History Library and Archives
Cincinnati Museum Center
  Continued growth and increasing vandalism at Allen Chapel forced the congregation to seek yet another location. In 1870, the congregation bought the former Bene Israel Synagogue at 538 Broadway. The larger, more secure synagogue with its barred windows and iron fence seemed like the perfect choice for them. The building also had symbolic connections to the Israelites who had once been slaves but were set free. The congregation named their new home Allen Temple. The first years there were financially difficult due to the money owed to the Bene Israel congregation and to damages caused by a fire in 1874. Several charity groups were formed to help ease these financial burdens. After satisfying the debts of the congregation, these groups formed the basis for subsequent social and welfare work.  
Allen Temple had many prominent Cincinnatians as members. One of these members, Benjamin Arnett, was active in both civic and religious life of the African American community in the late nineteenth century. Arnett served as a pastor and deacon in Ohio and Cincinnati before becoming a bishop of the A.M.E. church in 1888. He was also a promoter of Wilberforce College, an African American college near Xenia, Ohio. 1886-1887 he was a member of Ohio’s House of Representatives, where he worked to repeal Ohio’s “Black Laws” which deeply curtailed the freedom of African Americans. Allen also documented the history of the A.M.E. Church nationally and in Ohio.
Allen Temple began the 20th century with 800 members and continued to thrive. William McClain was one of the prominent members of the congregation. However, as the African American community began to migrate from the downtown area, the congregation made several attempts to sell their building and move to a new location. Finally, in 1979, the Allen Temple congregation moved to Roselawn Baptist Church on Reading Road. The old synagogue was demolished, and the property was sold to Procter and Gamble. In 1998, Allen Temple bought Swifton Commons Mall in Bond Hill and made plans to build a church center there. The congregation began to worship at this new location, 7030 Reading Road, in 2000.

To learn more about Allen Temple A.M.E. Church,
consult the following resources:

Allen Temple website
Allen Temple: Formerly the Bene Israel Synagogue, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1852-1979
By Alan I. Marcus
General f287.8 M322
This history of Allen Temple concentrates on the building that served as both Bene Israel Synagogue and Allen Temple. It also includes a history of the Bene Israel congregation.
View catalog record   Request slip
Allen Temple: The African Methodist Episcopal Church

By Alan I. Marcus, Gale E. Peterson, Daniel Hurley
Pamphlets q287.8 C574
This is an abbreviated version of Allen Temple: Formerly the Bene Israel Synagogue, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1852-1979.
View catalog record   Request slip
Centennial Guide
R.B. q287.8 A431
In addition to a detailed history of the congregation, a list of pastors, and photos of various church groups, the Centennial Guide includes a history of early African American settlers in the Cincinnati area.
View catalog record   Request slip
Souvenir Program for the Mortgage Burning of Allen Temple A.M.E.
Pamphlets f287.8 A431s
On September 10, 1945 Allen Temple held a mortgage burning celebration. This publication documents the events held and the funds raised to pay off the debt. It also includes photographs of the congregation.
View catalog record   Request slip
The Allen Temple Story (1824-1953): One Hundred Twenty-Ninth Anniversary of Allen Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church
Pamphlets f287.8 A431a
The church held a week-long celebration in 1953 to honor its 129th anniversary. This booklet includes a history of the church, photographs, and lists of pastors, trustees and board members.
View catalog record   Request slip
Pamphlets f287.8 A431c 1970
This publication documents the celebration of Cincinnati’s African Methodist Episcopal Church's 100th anniversary in the Allen Temple.
View catalog record   Request slip
Allen Temple AME Church Collection
Photo SC#40
This collection contains photographs, slides and negatives of the renovation of Allen Temple in the 1970s.
View catalog record   Request slip
William A. McClain Papers, 1927-1989
Mss 916
This collection of Judge William McClain's papers includes a few items about Allen Temple A.M.E. Church. For More information, a detailed register for this collection is available in the library.
View catalog record   Request slip

Sources Used for Historical Sketch:
  • Arnett, Benjamin William. Proceedings of the Semi-Centenary Celebration of the African Methodist Episcopal Church of Cincinnati at the Allen Temple, February 8th, 9th and 10th, 1874. R. B. 287.8 A748. Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati Museum Center.
  • Allen Temple: Formerly the Bene Israel Synagogue, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1852-1979. General f287.8 M322. Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati Museum Center.
  • “Church Buys Bond Hill Mall,” Cincinnati Enquirer, July 23, 1998, page B3.
  • “Allen Temple to Build Impressive New Church at Swifton: Mall Evolves as Community Focus,” Cincinnati Enquirer, April 6, 2000, page D1.
  • “Allen Temple Church Sold: Congregation is Building $9M Center,” Cincinnati Enquirer, July 26, 2000, page B3.
  • Augman, William Joseph, The Black Church in America : An Exploration in Cincinnati Ann Arbor, Mich. : University Microfilms, 1986, c1984. (Publication No. 287.87 A921.)
  • Dabney, Wendell P., Cincinnati's Colored Citizens. Cincinnati: Dabney Publishing Company, 1926.
  • Van Tine, Warren and Michael Pierce, ed. Builders of Ohio : A Biographical History, Columbus : Ohio State University Press, c2003.


Cincinnati History Library and Archives
1301 Western Ave., Suite 2133, Cincinnati, Ohio 45203
Phone: (513) 287-7030
Email: library@cincymuseum.org
Copyright © 2004-2020 Cincinnati Museum Center.
All Rights Reserved.
Images not to be reproduced without written authorization.
This online guide opened on February 10, 2004.