Salem United Methodist Church is an intergenerational and multi-ethnic community of faith reaching out locally and globally in the name of Jesus Christ.
THE BIRTH OF SALEM
Salem United Methodist Church was founded in 1881 as a mission of St. Mark’s Methodist Episcopal Church. The mission first met in a storefront at 250 St. Nicholas Avenue, and later moved to 232 West 124th Street, a private home. In 1908, the New York City Missionary and Church Extension Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church purchased six brownstones on 133rd Street and Lenox Avenue, renovating them to create a chapel and meeting rooms for the Salem mission. That same year, Salem was reorganized as a separate church.
By the early 1920s, Salem’s membership had grown to over 600 people and larger facilities were needed. In 1923, Salem purchased the imposing Calvary Methodist Episcopal Church, after Calvary decided to relocate to the Bronx. Salem Church has been home to many of Harlem’s cultural and intellectual elite, including singer Marian Anderson and poet Countee Cullen. Today, the huge structure stands on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard.
WHO IS CULLEN HALL NAMED AFTER?
Below Salem’s sanctuary lies its multipurpose room known as Cullen Hall. But who is Cullen? Rev. Frederick A. Cullen was a community and civil rights activist whose work with youth in Harlem and support of legal and social protests made him a significant figure in the New York African American community. The youngest of eleven children born to Isaac and Emmeline Williams Cullen, he was born in Fairmount, Maryland. After moving to Baltimore with his mother at the age of twelve, Rev. Cullen attended Maryland State Normal School
Reverend Frederick Asbury Cullen was assigned to St. Mark’s Church, a predominantly Black congregation in New York City in 1902. He initially led the church’s storefront mission, Salem Chapel, in Harlem. His outreach to neighborhood children as a way to encourage the church involvement of their parents led to the success of the mission, which was granted independent status in 1908 and named Salem Methodist Episcopal Church.
The essence of our calling is summed up in a single word: Love.
The beautiful sanctuary that we enjoy today is the result of committed members and the leadership of Rev. Charles Young Trigg, the successor to Rev. Cullen. The planning began in December 1950 and the sanctuary was re-consecrated on Sunday, April 12, 1953. The pipe organ was obtained from the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City. It was dedicated on Sunday, April 19, 1953.
The history continues to be told by the adults who were here at that time and those who were children then, but are now adults keeping the legacy alive!
WHAT ABOUT THE ORGAN?
This organ was originally built in 1931 by the Möller Organ Company as Opus 5796, and was one of two Möller organs installed in the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue. In 1952, Möller’s Opus 5796 was removed from the hotel and rebuilt for Salem Methodist Church. All parts that were to be releathered or rebuilt were returned to the Möller factory, and the organ was thoroughly cleaned, tonally regulated, repitched and tuned for its new home at Salem Methodist Church.In later years, additions and changes to the organ were carried out by the Schantz Organ Company.