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early churches of New Jersey
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Fair Haven, Monmouth County
Fisk was a general in the Union Army during the Civil War, a
banker, and the Prohibition Party candidate for President of the United
States in 1888. He was also the founder of Fisk University, a
predominantly black college in Nashville, and while residing in
Rumson he was the principal donor of the funds to build this chapel
as well as an adjoining school for black children. He also donated
to the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Rumson and started a Methodist
Sunday School in his home in 1876.
The building is a T-shape plan, common
among Methodist and Baptist churches, with tall narrow windows
and a double-door entrance. There is a shed roof over the
entry porch, added later, which rises four steps from the
ground, and a large stained glass window above the entrance.
The transepts contain the pastor’s office and the choir
room. The building has a tin ceiling, painted white, and dark varnished
wainscotting. It was moved to this site
in 1975. The building is owned by the Bethel African Methodist Church
of Fair Haven, and long served as the principal social center of
the black community. When the Borough acquired it in 1974 (the congregation
outgrown it and moved to a larger one) they used it for a community
center for 25 years, then closed it and were prepared to demolish
it despite its place on state and national historic registers. Members
of the historical society fought that move and raised more than $400,000
for its renovation.
Fair Haven once had a substantial black community, but that has largely
changed in recent years.