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Petworth's History

The original chapel of the former Methodist church at 8th and Shepherd ca. 1920, when used as a school. Image from Library of Congress.

The original site of the Petworth Methodist Episcopal Church was on the northwest corner of 8th and Shepherd streets, NW. The property for the first Methodist church building was a gift of George W.F. Swartzell. With a congregation of 42 members, the cornerstone for the one-story red brick building was laid on April 23, 1906. The chapel was completed and dedicated on October 14, 1906. The original building was small as none knew if the congregation would succeed or not, but in less than a year the church structure was crowded and it became impossible to house and seat all the congregation.

By May 1909, plans were made to enlarge the edifice. The new auditorium was designed by architect William J. Palmer and roughly seventy by eighty-five feet, with arrangements for a large choir and organ in the rear of the pulpit. The structure was to be built of brick and finished in pure white pebble-dash. However, these plans never came to pass.

(1909 drawing of new Petworth M.E. Church showing original chapel to the west (left) with proposed new addition to the east (right). The new auditorium was never built.)

(Elevation published in 1915 of the new church building.)

The design of the church is Tudor-Gothic, and the octagonal shape was reportedly patterned after the architecture of the period of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. The auditorium was designed to comfortably seat 500, and by use of the Akron system seating arrangement may be provided for 800.

During the fall of 1914 and the early spring of 1915 the church was turned over to the United States government for a sum of $15,000 to be used as a schoolhouse for children of the Petworth district. The Petworth public schools at that time were in need of additional space. The church building was adjacent to the old Petworth School, which along with the church would also make use of portable classrooms before razing the church building and expanding the school.

In April 1915 plans were made to erect a new church building. The contract was awarded to Charles E. Wire, a member of the church. Ground was broken for this building on the afternoon of July 11, 1915. On November 30, 1915, the corner stone was laid by the Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons, of the District of Columbia, Hon. Alexander Grant, grand master. The building was dedicated on October 8, 1916, by Rev. William F. McDowell, resident bishop of Washington.

(Petworth United Methodist Church today.)

One of the early buildings on Grant Circle is the Petworth Methodist Church. The current church was dedicated in 1916, making it an early Petworth structure, yet it wasn’t the first location of the Petworth Methodist Episcopal Church, nor the first building for area Methodists.



  1. Rev. Charles S. Cole 1905-1909
  2. Rev. L.F.L. Hiller 1909
  3. Rev. W.A. Haggerly 1909-1914
  4. Rev. G. Ellis Williams 1915-1922
  5. Rev. Edward Hayes 1923-1927
  6. Rev. Samuel E. Rose 1928-1930
  7. Rev. Robert L. Wood 1930-1938
  8. Rev. Frank Steelman 1938-1944
  9. Rev. John C. Millian 1944-1950
  10. Rev. Ralph D. Smith 1950-1964
  11. Rev. Davis W. Peck 1964-1966
  12. Rev. Haskell M. Miller 1966-1968
  13. Rev. Barclay Brown (Asst. Pastor) 1966-1968
  14. Rev. Herley C. Bowling 1969-1974
  15. Rev. Joseph E. Cater, Jr. 1974-1975
  16. Rev. Alton M. Washington 1975-1977
  17. Rev. Harold Garrett 1977-1981
  18. Rev. Ronald Ward 1981-1987
  19. Rev. Marian Dunmore 1987-1989
  20. Rev. Vernice Carney 1989-1992
  21. Rev. E. W. Stevenson, Sr. (Asst. Pastor) 1990-1994
  22. Rev. Stephen Andrew Tillett, I 1992-1996
  23. Rev. John S. Jennings II 1996-2001
  24. Rev. Carmen Collette 2001-2009
  25. Rev. Hattie Holmes 2009-2010
  26. Rev. Reginald Tarpley (Assoc. Pastor) 2009-2010
  27. Rev. Robert B. Starkey 2010-2012
  28. Rev. John Warren 2011-2013
  29. Rev. Sherwyn Benjamin 2013-2018
  30. Rev. Armon Nelson (Lead Pastor) 2018-Present
  31. Rev. LaTaska Nelson ( Co-Pastor) 2018-Present

Associate/Local Pastor who faithfully served the Lord as part of Petworth’s Ministry:

  1. Rev. Clifton McCray
  2. Rev. Dr. Gwendolyn D. Pierce
  3. Rev. Nathaniel Butler