Franklin, Tenn. (TN Tribune)-Franklin’s historic Shorter Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church will turn 154 years old in 2023. The African Methodist Episcopal Church is the oldest African American denomination in the United States, founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1816. In the aftermath of the Civil War, in 1868 former enslaved African
Americans created a sanctuary called Shorter Chapel.

Shorter Chapel AME Church was originally housed on Second Avenue South at
Church Street in what was once the Franklin First United Methodist Church
building. Franklin First UMC was moving to its location on Fourth Avenue and sold
the building to African American worshippers for $1500.

Eventually, as the Shorter Chapel congregation grew they would find space in what
is now the national register listed historic Natchez Street neighborhood. They would
relocate to 255 Natchez Street in 1925.

The Shorter Chapel bell tower was first used in the early 20th century. The bell
tower is one of the primary vertical elements that draws people to the church — not
only the sound of the bell, but its visual profile pointing upward to the heavens. The
bell tower has always been a welcoming sign to neighbors, members, friends,
families, guests, travelers, and worshippers of all walks. In recent years the bell
tower has fallen into disrepair.

In the winter of 2016, the church began to have a conversation about reinstalling
the bell and rehabilitating the century-old bell tower. After diligent fundraising of
over $160,000 Shorter Chapel will begin the work of repairing the bell tower. Local
architecture firm Paradym has completed construction drawings, and The Parent
Company has been engaged as general contractor to begin the work.