Work on stabilizing historic Quinn Chapel at Roy Wilkins & Chestnut to begin

May 05, 2021

Mayor Greg Fischer announced today the historic Quinn Chapel, located at Roy Wilkins Avenue and West Chestnut Street, will soon be stabilized. Louisville Metro Government will be contracting with Buckeye Construction & Restoration from Waterford, Ohio, for the first phase of stabilizing Quinn Chapel AME Church. Louisville Metro Government and property owner YMCA intend to continue working with the community to bring back life to this historic structure. 

“Quinn Chapel is an essential structure for Louisville’s African American history and the Russell neighborhood,” Mayor Fischer said. “Louisville Metro Government is pleased to play role in making sure that its history and legacy lives on. Residents will once again crowd in this building, and we will work with the community starting this fall to ensure that happens the way they want it.”

During the first phase, which will start in late May, residents can expect to see the façade of the church being repaired and restored. The work is anticipated to be complete by the end of the year. This project is being supported in part by an African American Civil Rights grant from the Historic Preservation Fund administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior as well as the Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant and $150,000 from Louisville Metro Government. 

In addition, Louisville Metro Government has been awarded an additional $500,000 for the second phase of the stabilization. Phase two is being supported in full by an African American Civil Rights grant from the Historic Preservation Fund administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Beginning in 2022, phase two will include masonry repair and graffiti removal from all exterior walls. 

In 2002, the property was sold to the YMCA, which has a Chestnut Street location just west of the church, and it has remained vacant. In 2010, the YMCA invested $400,000 for stabilization that included a new roof for the church and support beams as well as brick repair. 

The front portion of the church was built in 1884 and housed the Chestnut Street Baptist Church until 1910 when it was purchased by the Quinn Chapel AME Church. Quinn Chapel takes its name from Bishop Paul Quinn, who was the fourth bishop of the AME Church and the first to visit Kentucky. The church was a focal point for the civil rights movement in Louisville in the 1960s. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the church in April 1961. It was the starting point of nightly marches for open housing in 1967, and the reason for Dr. King’s second visit to Louisville.

Quinn Chapel has retained its integrity in design, materials and craftsmanship. The eastern steeple has been removed but original stained-glass windows and decorative masonry features are still intact. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Essential repairs needed include installing a new roof for the rear portion of the building, stabilizing walls, repointing mortar joints and repairing subflooring.   

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