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Saint Stephen AME Zion Church

CIRCA 1900

St. Stephen AME Zion Church is one of a handful of African Methodist Episcopal churches in Bahama Village. It is named for Saint Stephen who is recognized as the first Christian martyr. He was tasked by the Apostles to distribute food and care to the poor of the early church. His beliefs and speeches concerning what he saw as injustices of the church's distribution of wealth to its poor and widowed parishioners led to his death and martyrdom. He was condemned by the church and stoned to death. He is the patron saint of the poor and most interestingly, mason's.The church structure is built from locally quarried lime stone and coral rock. Parishioners, carpenters, and members of the black Mason's lodge, began church construction in 1900. They added the steeple addition to the structure in 1920.The exposed open beam and plank roof structure is evident when viewed from the interior of the structure.The town has been tested by the Great Fire of 1886, numerous hurricanes, and the ravages of a subtropical climate. Stone construction has proved to have many advantages of withstanding these dangers throughout the history of Key West.It is a testament to the parishioners of Saint Stevens AME Zion Church that this is a stone structure surrounded by 3,000 wooden buildings which make up the largest wood vernacular Historic District in the United States.Saint Stephens was closed as a place of worship in 1979. Since then it has gone through a series of uses ranging from office space to residential use and is currently an art gallery open to the public.