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Considering how small the population of Memphis was in the 1860s, before the Civil War, there are a remarkable number of existing churches that date from the time. Memphis was not ravaged by the war, as were many other southern towns. So the charming St. Mary's, with its Gothic tower, survived to be completed shortly after the war. The interior of the church, built by German immigrants, features statues, stained glass, an elaborately carved altar and a lovely side chapel and garden. Weekday visitors should knock at the church office door for admittance.
The historic First Baptist Beale Street Church, located at the end of the entertainment district, merits the "historic" tag for a number of reasons. For one thing, it was the first and largest Negro Missionary Church, built just after the Civil War. In the 1890s, Ida B. Wells used the basement of the church to publish the Free Speech and Headlights newspaper, one of the first newspapers written specifically for an African-American audience. The church is included in the Heritage Tour of Historic Churches. Call +1 901 527 3427 for information or call the church office recording and leave a message for a private tour.
The Gospel music at this historic church is so good, it is broadcast on three local radio stations: WBBP at 7am, WLOK at 8am and WDIA at 10:30a, every Sunday morning. Singers and musicians from around the Memphis area collaborate in creating a worship service that has hundreds of people on their feet singing every week. The location of the church, just off I-240 near the VA Medical Center, makes it easily accessible from any location in Memphis.'
The Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, has been turned into the Civil Rights Museum. But the Mason Temple, where he gave his famous "I've Been to the Mountain Top" speech, is still a functional church—the headquarters of the Church of God in Christ. The church holds services on Martin Luther King Day in January in honor of his birthday. The church is included in the Heritage Tour of Historic Churches. Call church office for private tours.