Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, the home of the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum (SSAAM) in Skillman, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 7.
The register is the official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. Mt. Zion AME was recommended eligible for listing on the National Register “for its historic association with the ethnic heritage of African Americans in the Sourlands and … as a humble example of rural Black church architecture with a high level of material and design integrity,” wrote Patrick Harshbarger vice president of Trenton-based Hunter Research on Mt. Zion AME’s National Register Nomination Form. The nomination was funded by a Somerset County Historic Preservation Grant.
“Listing on the National Register is an acknowledgment of the importance of our mission to bring African American history to light and to preserve the structures that were part of that history,” said Caroline Katmann, SSAAM’s executive director.
“Everywhere we go, people are hungry for information about the culture, contributions, and experiences of African Americans in our state. This is a story that has been ignored until recently. Our state and nation will not heal from centuries of racism until this history is told. We hope that our Museum, and the beautifully restored Mt. Zion AME Church, will be a place people will visit to learn about and honor the enslaved and free African Americans who contributed so much to the culture, economy and landscape of this area,” said Elaine Buck, SSAAM founder and advisory board member.
SAAM and the Sourland Conservancy have partnered to restore the Mt. Zion AME Church and the cultural history of the Sourlands for over a decade. The final stage of restoration of the Mt. Zion AME Church will be overseen by Mills + Schnoering Architects of Princeton. “We are looking forward to opening the doors of our beautifully restored building to visitors on a regular basis, in 2022,” Katmann said.
Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, 189 Hollow Road, Skillman 08558. www.ssaamuseum.org.