by Chase Pellegrini de Paur for Indy Week
Since the Civil War era, St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church has stood proudly at the junction between Chapel Hill and Carrboro.
The church has watched the towns around it grow and change. It saw the post-Reconstruction solidification of the white supremacist state, the Great Migration, and the Jim Crow era. In the past decade, the saga of gentrification played out in the Greenbridge condos, the foreclosed modern towers of straight lines and glass panes just across the street.
As the towns around it have grown and changed, so has the building of the church itself. The original wooden structure has been renovated and expanded into a redbrick building with stained-glass windows and a steeple that watches over traffic flowing between Franklin and Main Streets.
Looking to the future, St. Paul has emphasized that the congregation isn’t going anywhere and has declined offers from developers who continue to eye its prime location between the two downtowns.
But it is time for the church to grow—just on a separate plot of land. This autumn, the members of the oldest Black church in Chapel Hill gained the town council’s approval to build an entire community anchored by 350 apartments.
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