Search Close
Plan Your Visit
Outside View of the Indiana Historical Society Building
Plan your visit
Tuesday through Saturday10 a.m. - 5 p.m
Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center 450 West Ohio Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202
Save $2 per ticket (adults & seniors) when you purchase online.
Purchase Tickets
Indiana Experience Admission $15 Adults$14 Seniors (60 and over)$5 Youth (ages 5 through 17)$2 Access Pass HoldersFree Children under 5Free IHS MembersFree Educators and Military Our (FREE) parking lot is located on New York Street a ½ block east of West Street. Free parking with admission.

Here’s the Church, and Here’s the Steeple

September 26, 2018

“Here’s the church, and here’s the steeple, open the door and see all the people.” This children’s nursery rhyme really gets at the heart of what church is all about: community. And that’s what I have experienced while working with Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church members, their historic church records collection at the Indiana Historical Society and community partners. Community partnerships have been an integral part of preserving the significant history of this downtown Indianapolis church.

Bethel members

The Bethel A.M.E. Church and its steeple still stand at 414 W. Vermont Street along Indianapolis’s Central Canal where it has been since 1869, but the people (the congregation) have moved on to their new church building at 6401 Zionsville Road. This A.M.E. congregation is the city’s oldest African-American church congregation, founded in 1836.

Bethel A.M.E. Church on its Building Dedication Day June 3, 2018

Bethel A.M.E. Church on its Building Dedication Day June 3, 2018

Over the years, the cost of upkeep for Bethel’s historic building became unsustainable for the congregation, so the parishioners and their leaders decided to sell the church to SUN Development and Management Corporation in 2016. The company made plans to develop the historic church building and surrounding land into a hotel, while the congregation prepared to build a new church in Pike Township.

In addition to Bethel’s historic building being preserved and repurposed, the church’s history and significance in downtown Indianapolis will live on in many different forms thanks to the efforts of its church members in partnership with many local organizations. This month a new Destination Indiana Journey about Bethel’s history is available to visitors at IHS and online at The church records are now housed at IHS and have been digitized as the Bethel A.M.E. Church Collection, a collaboration between IHS, IUPUI University Library, Indiana State Museum and Bethel A.M.E. Church. In another collaborative project, Virtual Bethel, the sanctuary and stories of the congregation have been preserved in a virtual reality experience. Spearheaded by IUPUI’s Media Arts and Sciences Program and Department of Library and Information Science, Virtual Bethel has provided an educational experience for IUPUI students who worked on creating the virtual environment, as well as the community who gets to experience a piece of Indianapolis history.

Bethel Historian Olivia McGee-Lockhart and IHS Digitization Staff Kathy Mulder

Bethel Historian Olivia McGee-Lockhart and IHS Digitization Staff Kathy Mulder

Bethel’s congregation dedicated their new church building on Zionsville Road on June 3, 2018, and ground was broken for Hampton Inn & Homewood Suites on the Canal Downtown Indianapolis (the hotel at Bethel’s historic site) just four days later. As Bethel’s history endures, its members are focused on carrying out the church’s mission and reaching people in their new community.

Kathy Mulder works in Digital Collections at IHS. She first became interested in history while tagging along with her grandmother who was a docent in historic Madison, Indiana.

Share this post:
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share with Email
Facebook Comment
Thanks for Reading! If you enjoyed reading our blog, try our InDepth Stories
map of area around IHS location
Drop us a line
Let's talk
Full Staff Directory
Our Hours
ExhibitsOpen 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through SaturdayWilliam H. Smith Memorial LibraryOpen 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through SaturdayHistory MarketOpen 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through SaturdayStardust Terrace Café HoursOpen 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
Never miss a story!
Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center450 West Ohio Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202(317) 232-1882
© 2018 Indiana Historical Society Privacy Policy
The Indiana Historical Society is a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization.