Harriet Tubman NHP Announces Opening of Historic A.M.E. Zion Church

After years of careful restoration and rehabilitation, The Thompson Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church and parsonage will open to the public on June 22, 2024. Both buildings are part of Harriet Tubman National Historical Park. When Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in Auburn, New York, was established by
the United States Department of the Interior in 2017, the park boundary included two distinct parcels of land: the Harriet Tubman Home property at 180 South Street, and the historic Thompson Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church and Parsonage on Parker Street. The church was included in the park due to its significance in Harriet Tubman’s life, and at the end of her life; it was in this church that her 1913 funeral took place.
The National Park Service has owned the property on Parker Street since 2017, but the process of restoring the church to its 1913 appearance was marred by delays. A 2019 lighting strike caused a fire in the church’s steeple, which led to water damage from fire- suppression efforts. Shortly after, the COVID-19 pandemic further delayed restoration.  “The process of meticulously researching a building’s construction and history, developing plans for restoration, and then completing that work can take years, even without the delays that this project faced,” says park Cultural Resource Specialist Jessica Bowes. “It was the hard work of many National Park Service staff and contractors that allowed this project to continue forward despite the setbacks.”  

Now that the church is ready to open to the public, it will open first to the Auburn community, who helped make the park a reality. The June 22 community opening event will begin at 11am. Visitors and guests will have an opportunity to tour the site, view the restored church, and see new exhibits detailing Harriet Tubman’s life in Auburn and the history of the church. This event will coincide with the city’s Juneteenth celebrations.  “Park staff are incredibly excited to open this site to the public and share just a portion of Harriet Tubman’s expansive legacy in Auburn with our visitors to the site,” says
Superintendent Ahna Wilson. 

 Following the opening event on June 22, the church and parsonage, which serves as a visitor-contact station, will be open on Fridays and Saturdays. These hours may
change, but the limited opening will help the park determine operational needs before a grand opening event in the summer of 2025.

Superintendent Wilson is optimistic about the future of the park and its partnerships, stating, “We look forward to working with the community, neighbors, and important organizations such as the Harriet Tubman Home, Inc., Equal Rights Heritage Center, and Seward House Museum to explore how Harriet Tubman’s legacy continues to positively influence people today.” 

For more information about Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, the Thompson Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church, and the June 22 community opening event, visit www.nps.gov/hart.

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