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Newsmax's Top 50 Religious Landmarks in America

By    |   Wednesday, 23 Aug 2017 07:49 AM

Christian pastors and Jewish rabbis and leaders have initiated nearly every significant sociopolitical event in America. Their churches and synagogues were catalysts and hubs that made possible the American War of Independence, the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, and civil rights. They founded schools and hospitals, created architectural wonders, and emphasized the preservation of nature.

Religious landmarks in most of the original 13 states could easily fill their own top 50 lists, especially the cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. However, these sites exemplify the diversity of America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and commitment to religious freedom — the hallmark of American exceptionalism.

Without further adieu, here are Newsmax’s Top 50 Religious Landmarks in America:

1. “God’s Square Mile;” Ocean Grove, New Jersey; 1869 — This popular seaside retreat, concert, and vacation destination for millions is a lasting testament to the Victorian-era revivalist movement that followed the Second Great Awakening. Methodist ministers founded Ocean Grove believing “religion and recreation should go hand in hand.” Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this quaint town is crammed with picturesque Victorian homes, antiques, a historic Auditorium, chapel, and tent community, and offers numerous tours and activities on land, sea, and air. Methodists still gather here regularly as well as other Christian groups.

2. Plymouth Rock and Plymouth Plantation; Plymouth, Massachusetts; 1620 — Especially at Thanksgiving, but all year round, millions come to learn what life was like in the first European settlement in New England. Three must-see sites include Plymouth Rock in Pilgrim Memorial State Park, which marks the arrival of the pilgrims who founded Plymouth Colony in 1620. Nearby, visitors can board and tour a replica of the Mayflower, the ship the pilgrims sailed on to reach the New World. Spend at least a day to explore the living history museum of Plimouth Plantation (original spelling), taste 17th-century foods, and meet knowledgeable staff wearing period dress. 

3. San Antonio de Valero; San Antonio, Texas; 1720 — Better known as “the Alamo,” this unassuming and uncompleted Spanish mission remains the quintessential symbol of freedom in the West. It is less known for its architectural style (akin to nearby Mission Concepción) or that it was the first European hospital in Texas. Instead, the Alamo is synonymous with the Mexican Army’s brutal slaughter of everyone inside its walls and the vow of freedom fighters to keep fighting. “Remember the Alamo” became more than a rallying cry used to win the War of Texas Independence. Without Texas, the U.S. government’s access to land west of the Mississippi was nearly impossible. But after statehood, Texas opened up access to the West, after which 10 states joined the Union.  

4. French Huguenot Church; Charleston, South Carolina; 1687 — After the Edict of Nantes was revoked in 1685, French Huguenot Protestants fled to mostly British colonies, including the mostly eastern, coastal, pre-Colonial American towns. Called the “Church of the Tides,” it was first built in 1687 in downtown Charleston by floods of French immigrants arriving in ships. By 1700, roughly 450 Huguenots had settled in this area of South Carolina. The church was rebuilt in 1844 after a fire and was nearly destroyed during the Civil War and later by an earthquake in 1866. Today, its services are no longer held in French, except once a year, but the church serves as a “living remnant and reminder of the Huguenot experience” in South Carolina.

5. St. Patrick’s Cathedral; New York City; 1879 — In 1785 there were only 200 Roman Catholics in New York City. But after a flood of Irish Catholics immigrated after surviving Ireland’s potato famine, the Diocese of New York was created in 1808. By the early 1840s, the bishop of New York, John Hughes, proposed building “the most beautiful gothic cathedral in the New World,” believing it would become “the heart of the city.” Named after the Patron Saint of Ireland, the Cathedral idea was ridiculed as “Hughes’ Folly.” Today, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the most visited church in America, including a visit from a Roman Catholic Pope. In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI was the first Pope to celebrate Mass at the cathedral.

6. Touro Synagogue; Newport, Rhode Island; 1658 — Touro Synagogue is the oldest synagogue building still standing and only surviving Colonial synagogue building in America, and the oldest surviving synagogue building in North America. Founded by Spanish-Portuguese Jewish immigrants, its congregation dates to 1658 although construction of the synagogue did not begin until 1759 (completed 1763). Its most notable leaders include Isaac Touro, Aaron Lopez, Abraham Pereira Mendes, and Henry Samuel Morais. A 1790 letter President George Washington wrote to its congregation extolled the virtues of religious freedom and his commitment to protecting Jewish worship in America.

7. Congregation Mikveh Israel; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; 1740 — Founded in the 1740 by Spanish-Portuguese Sephardic Jewish immigrants, it is the oldest continuous congregation in the United States. Called the “Synagogue of the American Revolution,” without its first members, the American Revolution might not have been possible. Instrumental to the cause were Haym Solomon, who helped finance the revolution, and the Gratz brothers who supplied the Continental Army with the bulk of its ammunition and supplies. Open to the public, tours (available in person and online in the virtual) and exhibits detail 270 years of American Jewish history.

8. Plymouth Church; Brooklyn, New York; 1846 — A hidden gem in Brooklyn Heights, New York, is a National Historic Landmark whose first pastor was a powerful abolitionist. Henry Ward Beecher’s fiery sermons and mock auctions of slaves created media frenzy and overflowing pews. Plymouth Church, Brooklyn’s “Grand Central Depot,” was a primary hub along the Underground Railroad and influential even in Kansas (See No. 38.). Beecher also published the first hymnal in the world to have both music and words printed on the same page. His sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, authored one of the most significant works of literature in American history, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

9. U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel; Colorado Springs, Colorado; 1962 — One of the most iconic landmarks in America is the place of worship for 4,000 U.S. Air Force cadets. The chapel’s magnificent 17 spires constructed of steel, aluminum, and glass are shaped like fighter jets bursting towards the heavens. Inside are three chapels and two all-faith rooms, exemplifying its mission “to facilitate the free exercise of religion.” Visitors should plan a trip before summer of 2018 when major renovations are scheduled to begin. Open daily; groups can request guided tours.

10. Harriet Tubman Thompson AME Zion Church; Auburn, New York; 1859; and Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Park; Eastern Shore, Maryland; 2014 — The African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church was the stalwart defender of human rights for black Americans and strong opponent of slavery. Known as “the Freedom Church,” it was home to the leader of the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman, and famous black American civil rights activists, Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth. Before the Civil War roughly 500 former slaves traveled through Auburn in their escape north, finding respite at Harriet Tubman’s home and the AME Zion Church. Tubman was a devout Christian, hunter, and a scout, spy and nurse for the Union Army. Referred to as “Moses,” Tubman risked her life to save hundreds of slaves traversing land and water spanning more than 300 miles from Maryland to New York. The national park and the Harriet Tubman Byway provide information and a self-guided 125-mile driving tour of her route, which includes 36 historical sites.

11. Third Haven Meeting House; Talbot, Maryland; 1684 — Although the Society of Friends (Quakers) had been in the area since 1640, the third meeting house they built in 1684 is believed to be the oldest Friends Meeting House still standing in the United States still in use. Third Haven Quakers were viewed by their neighbors as “Good Samaritans” because they were the first to take in sick or ill-treated indentured servants, and they began their efforts to free slaves as early as 1674. In 1766, one famous Quaker, John Woolman, traveled barefoot (wearing undyed clothes) throughout the Eastern Shore of Maryland pleading with every slave owner to free their slaves and no longer profit from slavery. They, like their Tuckahoe Neck neighbors, would become instrumental in the Underground Railroad.  

12. “The Nation’s Church,” Christ Church; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; 1695 — Christ Church is the birthplace of the American Episcopalian denomination. Prominent Revolutionary War leaders worshipped here and its cemetery holds the remains of some of the most important political and religious leaders of the Colonial and Revolutionary-era, including those of Benjamin Franklin and four signers of the Declaration of Independence. Tours of the church and cemetery are held daily.

13. Mission Dolores Parish; San Francisco, California; 1776 — Comprised of the original Misión San Francisco de Asís and the Dolores Basilica, this parish was essentially the birthplace of  “The City by the Bay” and has served the community since the days of the original, native Californians. It’s the oldest, intact mission in the state, even surviving the great 1906 earthquake that leveled and burned more than three-quarters of the city. During his 1987 visit at the height of the AIDS epidemic, Pope John Paul II blessed 62 AIDS patients, including a 4-year-old child, at Mission Dolores.

14. Holy Trinity “Old Swedes” Church; Wilmington, Delaware; 1699 — Swedish immigrants initially settled in the Delaware Valley in the mid- to late 17th century and built Lutheran churches. Most significant are the three that share similar architecture called "Old Swedes": Holy Trinity, Gloria Dei Church in Philadelphia (founded 1677 and the oldest church in Pennsylvania), and Trinity Church in Swedesboro, New Jersey (founded 1703). All were significant catalysts during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars whose members were prominent political, medical, and military leaders. Holy Trinity Delaware is reportedly "the nation's oldest church building still used for worship as originally built." Its cemetery holds more than 15,000 burials, including many noteworthy influencers.

15. Roger Williams National Park; Providence, Rhode Island; 1636 — One of the most influential leaders in England, America, and Europe, was Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island. His 1644 treatise on religious freedom, “The Bloody Tenent of Persecution,” influenced political philosophy for centuries. In 1636, Williams purchased land from the Narragansett Indians, naming this new colony, Providence, establishing it as a haven for freedom of conscience. The national park offers tours and a range of information about Williams, 17th-century life, and portrays how Thomas Jefferson and James Madison incorporated William’s beliefs as the bedrock of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. 

16. Temple Square; Salt Lake City, Utah; 1853 — One of Utah’s top tourist attractions is Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City. Its 35 acres encompasses the world headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, free, guided tours of historic sites, special exhibits, art displays, and films about Mormon culture and heritage. It also features parks and gardens, and it boasts the largest genealogy library of its kind in the world.

17. The St. Louis Cathedral; New Orleans, Louisiana; 1720 — Not far from the delights of Café du Monde sits the oldest cathedral in North America. Originally founded as a Roman Catholic parish in 1720, this cathedral’s iconic and majestic triple steeples make it one of New Orleans’ most remarkable landmarks. Its beauty is enhanced by the constant stream of jazz music flowing through its stained glass windows, enjoyed by visitors and parishioners alike.

18. Old North Church; Boston, Massachusetts; 1729 — Although the church is Boston’s oldest, it’s most known because of Paul Revere’s midnight ride on April 18, 1775. As he rode his horse through neighborhoods warning, “The British are coming! The British are coming!” his destination was the Old North Church. It was the meeting place of the Revolution from which the famous signal, "One if by land, and two if by sea" was reportedly sent. The people who met here prepared for the Battles of Lexington and Concord, which began the American Revolution. Of Boston’s numerous historic religious sites, this is part of the Freedom Trail.

19. Old South Meeting House; Boston, Massachusetts; 1729— Built by congregants who broke from a church founded by John Winthrop in 1630, this church became central to public debate. Renowned for its protest meetings, it was called, the “mouth-house” before the American Revolution. It has always been a symbol and platform for the free expression of ideas. In 1773, 5,000 people gathered to debate British taxation, after which some dumped crates of tea off of three British ships into the Boston Harbor. It was from this church that Founding Father, Samuel Adams, gave the signal to the “war whoops,” beginning the Boston Tea Party. Its first pastor published the state’s first medical tract; notable congregants included Samuel Adams, William Dawes, Benjamin
Franklin, Samuel Sewall, and African-American poet Phillis Wheatley.

20. Christ Church; Savannah, Georgia; 1733 — Founded the same year as the colony of Georgia, its first church services were held in English, French, and Italian. Its most notable rector was the founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley, from 1736-1737. Wesley started the first Sunday school and published one of the first English hymnals in the colonies. Its bell was made by Revere and Son of Boston, which is still used today. One of its members, Juliette Gordon Low, founded the Girl Scouts of America. Wesley’s successor was his friend and fellow evangelist and leader of the Great Awakening, George Whitefield, who served as the church’s rector until 1740. He also founded the Bethesda Orphan House and Academy (Bethesda Academy), the oldest home and school for boys in America. His home for girls, Mercy House, is one of the oldest period homes in Savannah dating to 1740. Whitefield’s message, fervor and oratory capabilities brought about the First Great Awakening in America between 1738 and 1770.

21. Amish Heritage Sites of Pennsylvania; 1760 — One of the only unchanged communities in America can be found in the picturesque slopes and fields of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and its neighboring counties. Founded in 1760, America’s oldest Amish community, and neighboring expansive Mennonite community, presents a popular year-round vacation and educational destination where traffic and time slow to the pace of horse-drawn buggies, and windmills, not cell phones, are prevalent. Old World attractions and events, handmade crafts, quaint bed-and-breakfasts, and homemade food abound from the Pennsylvania Dutch, who maintain a lifestyle made possible because of the religious freedom they enjoy.

22. “The Little Chapel that Stood” St. Paul’s Chapel; New York City; 1766 — This chapel, which celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2016, is the oldest surviving church building, the only colonial-era building, and the oldest public building in continuous use in Manhattan. George Washington and the first members of Congress prayed there after Washington’s inauguration at Federal Hall on April 30, 1789. The chapel not only survived the Great Fire of 1776 (after the British won the Battle of Long Island and burned one fourth of the city), but also miraculously survived 9/11. Located opposite of the World Trade Center, not one of its windows was broken. The church became and remains a respite for survivors and symbol of hope. Open to the public, visitors can view old and new monuments and memorials.

23. Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá; San Diego, California; 1769 — Called the "Mother of the Missions" this National Historic Landmark was the first of 21 Spanish missions established by Franciscan priest Father Junípero Serra in modern-day California when it was the Spanish territory New Spain (Mexico). It fell under Mexican government control in 1821 and then under American control in 1848. Most notable of the mission’s many achievements was the large-scale vineyard and farming operation it implemented, which by 1825 included more than 28,000 head of livestock and an olive harvest that helped source California’s 1878 olive boom. It built a dam and a several-miles-long aqueduct, which was remarkable considering that the land was arid and no such farming existed prior to the Franciscans’ arrival.

24. The Billy Graham Library and Museum; Charlotte, North Carolina; 2007 — Perhaps one of the greatest American evangelists of all time, the Reverend Billy Graham reached several hundred million people in more than 185 countries in his lifetime, preaching the gospel and the freedom and liberty that comes with it. The impact of his ministry and information about his life and organizations’ efforts are displayed through multimedia presentations, photos, memorabilia, and a tour of his childhood home. His ministries continue to provide disaster relief and humanitarian aid to people in need worldwide.

25. Trinity Church; New York City; 1790 — Although it was first built facing Wall Street in 1697, the church was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1776 and rebuilt by 1790. The steeple of the church building — whether the first, second, or most recent, which was consecrated in 1846 — was for years the highest point in the city and a landmark for ships entering Hudson Bay. President George Washington and members of his government, including John Jay and Alexander Hamilton, attended services here for two years when New York City was America’s first capitol. Its cemetery holds the remains of many notables, including Alexander Hamilton and his family members.

26. Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church; Montgomery, Alabama; 1954 — From the pulpit of this church, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ignited the Civil Rights Movement. Serving as its pastor from 1954 to 1960, he and others led countless civil rights meetings and activism, supporting the 1955-56 Montgomery bus boycott.

27. First Church of Christ Congregational; Farmington, Connecticut; 1771 — Built in 1771, one of the church’s first pastors was the father of the founder of Yale University. But the church became famous in 1839 for sheltering the African slaves who revolted on the Spanish ship, La Amistad. It was already a significant hub on the Underground Railroad, and its leaders were active abolitionists. Their cause for righteousness gained even more momentum after the Amistad trial, which became a turning point for the abolitionist movement.

28. St. Michael the Archangel Cathedral; Sitka, Alaska; 1808 — For those who make the trek to Alaska or whose cruise ship stops in Sitka, one interesting stop is a visit to the National Historic Landmark, St. Michael’s, a reconstruction of the historic Russian Orthodox cathedral. (The original burned in 1966.) Sitka was the former seat of the Russian Orthodox Diocese that governed all of North America, and was under control of Russia until 1867. This cathedral was the “largest and most imposing edifice in Alaska until the 20th century.” Although Alaska did not become a state until 1959, the cathedral fell under the authority of the Orthodox Church of America Diocese of Alaska in 1872, which has maintained its unique Russian characteristics.

29. St. John’s Church; Washington, D.C.; 1816 — Located directly across the street from the White House, this historic Episcopalian Church is known as the “Church of the Presidents.” Since 1815, every U.S. president has attended at least one service here. Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who rebuilt the White House and the U.S. Capitol after the War of 1812, built it.

30. Old Ursuline Convent; New Orleans, Louisiana; 1752 — Built in 1752, the convent is the only remaining French colonial building in America, and one of the only buildings in the French Quarter that survived a devastating fire in the 18th century. But its legacy is more than its architecture. The Sisters of Ursula founded schools, orphanages, and the first asylum to treat the sick and poor in New Orleans, and in numerous cities throughout America. St. Mary’s Church adjoins the old convent, which is open for guided tours.

31. Baltimore Basilica; Baltimore, Maryland (Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary); 1806-1821 —  “America’s First Cathedral” is the first Roman Catholic cathedral built in America after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. The archbishop of Baltimore’s cousin, Charles Carroll, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Its architect, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, also designed the U.S. Capitol.

32. St. Mary’s Basilica; Natchez, Mississippi; 1843 — Like the Roman Catholics in the Southwest and West, the Catholic community in Natchez fell under the authority of several countries. Discovered in 1682 by Robert de la Salle, its first parish was established in 1722 by a French Catholic priest. After France lost the French and Indian War in 1762 it ceded the Louisiana territory west of the Mississippi River to Spain, which built a church in Natchez in 1788. In 1763 France ceded the land east of the Mississippi to England. After America gained its independence, Natchez was caught in-between Spain and America. Spain sold New Orleans to France in 1800 then France sold the Louisiana Territory to America in 1803. Needless to say the cathedral, which was established in 1843 and consecrated in 1886, reflects its multinational and ethnic heritage and is visited by people all over the globe because of its “breathtaking” beauty.

33. Mormon Trail Center; Omaha, Nebraska; 1846 — Unfortunately, after Joseph Smith’s revelation in Palmyra, New York, he and his Mormon followers did not experience religious freedom in America. Run out of the East Coast as a heretic, he and his followers continued migrating west. The Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters depicts the experience of 90,000 Mormon pioneers who traveled west to the Rocky Mountains between 1846 and 1860. The museum displays a log cabin, covered wagon, and other aspects of their journey. Open daily; the center hosts guided tours and a yearly quilt show.

34. Washington National Cathedral; Washington, D.C.; 1990 — Officially called the "Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington," the cathedral was completed in 1990 after 200 years of planning and construction. President George Washington had in 1792 sought to build "a church intended for national purposes." The gothic-style cathedral sits 400 feet above sea level on top of Mount Saint Albans in northwest Washington, D.C. Part of the National Park Service; it is the sixth largest in the world and second largest in America. The cathedral has held many significant funeral services including those of Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Dwight Eisenhower. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke from this pulpit before his assassination. Its cemetery holds the remains of many notable Americans including Woodrow Wilson and Helen Keller.

35. Temple-Tifereth Israel; Cleveland, Ohio; 1850 — This 165-year-old Reform Jewish congregation’s several sites include its gold-domed Byzantine-style temple, which is now part of the Maltz Performing Arts Center at Case Western Reserve University. Its Temple Museum of Jewish Art, Religion and Culture, is one of the oldest museums of Judaica in North America. Its gallery space at the Beachwood synagogue and Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage exhibit the history of Judaism and Jewish immigrant experiences in America.

36. Race Street Meeting House; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; 1856 — The historic and still active Quaker meetinghouse was at the forefront of the women’s rights movement. Its famous leaders include women’s rights activist and abolitionist Lucretia Mott, peace activist Hannah Clothier Hull, and suffragette leader and author of the Equal Rights Amendment Alice Paul. A National Historic Landmark, this meetinghouse represents the achievements of women who tirelessly fought to end slavery and advance civil rights for women.

37. Mission San Juan Capistrano; San Juan Capistrano, California; 1776 — Perhaps most famous as a destination for migratory swallows, the mission, dubbed the “Jewel of the California Missions,” is a treasure trove of art, artifacts, architecture, and gardens to explore. Hundreds of thousands of people — and birds — visit the mission annually.

38. Beecher Bible And Rifle Church; Wabaunsee, Kansas; 1856 — Following the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill in 1854, Kansans had to vote to become a free state or a slave state and choose which side of the Civil War it would support. East Coasters flooded into Kansas to influence the vote, including a group from Henry Ward Beecher’s Plymouth Church, No. 26 on the list. To convince Kansans of the evil of slavery — they smuggled in Sharps rifles, widely known as “Beecher Bibles,” which Beecher maintained was a “moral agency” necessary to fight the evils of slavery.

39. Metropolitan AME Church; Washington, D.C.; 1872 — The oldest continuously operating black church in the District of Columbia was active in the abolitionist movement, sheltering slaves along the Underground Railroad. The first black U.S. senator to serve a full term, Sen. Blanche Kelso Bruce, of Missouri, was a church member. In 1894, he introduced fellow congregant and leading abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who delivered his last speech before he died, “The Lessons of the Hour,” in which he admonished the U.S. to end racial prejudice so that the nation could “flourish forever.” Other leading figures who’ve spoken at Metropolitan include Mary McLeod Bethune, the early 20th-century civil rights leader, Joel Elias Spingarn, a founder of the NAACP, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.

40. Congregation Beth Jacob Cemetery; Galveston, Texas; 1888 — Galveston, Texas, is one of the oldest havens for Jews in North America. Home to Congregation Beth Jacob and its historic cemetery and Congregation B’nai Israel, the oldest Reform synagogue in Texas, they represent the history of Jewish immigrants who came to America seeking freedom from religious persecution. The first Jewish European settlement in Galveston was founded in 1816. In 1907, New York financier Jacob Schiff and Reform Rabbi Henry Cohen of Galveston launched the Galveston Movement Plan, which helped bring more than 10,000 Jews to Galveston who escaped Russian and Eastern European pogroms.

41. St. John the Divine; New York City; 1892 — The largest cathedral in the world is located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Building began in 1892 but its construction remains only two-thirds completed. Continuing its Romanesque-Byzantine and French gothic style, its completion relies on European master stonecutters. Visitors can gaze at its colossal structure whose nave alone is the size of two football fields, and at its Great Rose Window, the largest glass window in America, made from more than 10,000 pieces of colored glass. Inside its 162-foot dome the Statue of Liberty could easily fit. Twice a year its three-ton bronze doors are opened — on Easter and during the Feast of St. Francis.

42. Congregation Sherith Israel; San Francisco, California; 1851 — This Reform temple boasts a monumental Spanish revival era stained-glass window that depicts the story of Moses on Mount Sinai — with a twist. Established by Jewish pioneers during California’s Gold Rush, the window shows the iconic El Capitan towering from the Yosemite Valley (replacing Mount Sinai), symbolizing the Jewish yearning for a promised land and their new life in America.

43. Temple Emanu-El; New York City; 1847 — Temple Emanu-El is the world’s largest temple and the first Reform congregation established in New York City. In addition to the building’s magnificent art deco, Byzantine, and Moorish-influenced mosaics, its museum holds a collection of Hanukah lamps dating to the 14th century.

44. Unity Temple; Oak Park, Illinois; 1905 — The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust describes Unity Temple as “the greatest public building of the architect’s Chicago years.” Included as one of the stops on the Frank Lloyd Wright tour, visitors continue to be intrigued by the building’s invisible entrance while they learn about the Unitarian Universalists’ roles in the abolition and civil rights movements.

45. Twin Cathedral; Twin Cities, Minnesota; 1915 — Roman Catholicism was introduced into the territory that is now Minnesota in the 1830s.  By the early 1900s, two cathedrals were designed by the same architect in the same classical revival style and were completed within a few years of each other. By 1915, the first liturgy was read at the Cathedral of St. Paul, which is the third-largest Roman Catholic church in America. Its “twin,” the Basilica of St. Mary, claims the distinction of being the first church in America designated as a basilica. The Basilica School opened in 1913. Free tours are available during which visitors can learn of the churches’ historic involvement with immigrant communities and its ongoing commitment to the arts.

46. Riverside Church; New York City; 1930 — Inspired by a famous French cathedral, Riverside Church is the tallest church in America and the 24th tallest in the world. Its architectural feat is rivaled by its congregants’ commitment to social activism and “nondenominational inclusivism.” In the west portal, its “Arch of Scientists” includes sculptures of Archimedes, Charles Darwin, Michael Faraday, Galileo, Johannes Kepler, Louis Pasteur, Isaac Newton — and Albert Einstein. When Einstein heard that as a Jew he was included in a Protestant church he said, “This could not happen in Europe. I am afraid it may never happen there.” Fleeing Jewish persecution in Germany, he found respite in Princeton, New Jersey.

47. Temple Beth Sholom; Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; 1959 — This futuristic, pyramidal synagogue is the only synagogue ever designed by the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. A National Historic Landmark, its walls and ceilings are masterfully decorated with geometrical designs. It represents significant architectural history and the 20th-century suburbanization of Jews into middle- and upper-class America.

48. Mason Temple Church of God in Christ; Memphis, Tennessee; 1968 — More than 3,000 people gathered at this temple to hear Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his prophetic "Mountaintop" speech on April 3, 1968 — the eve of his assassination. The temple was central to civil rights meetings and activism in Memphis during the 1950s and ’60s, and today remains the headquarters of the Church of God in Christ, the second-largest black denomination after the AME.

49. The Chapel in the Hills; Rapid City, South Dakota; 1969 — This wooden church transports visitors to a Scandinavian world of more than 800 years ago. On the western outskirts of Rapid City lies a full-scale replica of a 12th-century Norwegian Borgund stave church. Visitors can learn about Norwegian immigrant history at a small museum, which includes an original log cabin previously owned by Norwegian settlers, and attend daily summer worship services in the chapel. 

50. Saint Photios Greek Orthodox Chapel and National Shrine; St. Augustine, Florida; 1985 — The first Greek Orthodox community in North America was established in New Orleans by a small group of Greek merchants. They also settled in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1768. Although the first permanent Greek Orthodox community was established in New York City in 1892, this National Shrine serves as a monument and museum that tells the Greek immigrant story and pursuit of finding religious freedom in the New World.

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Christian pastors and Jewish rabbis and leaders have initiated nearly every significant sociopolitical event in America. Their churches and synagogues were catalysts and hubs that made possible the American War of Independence, the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, and civil rights.
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