Michael O. Bourne
Bethlehem Methodist Episcopal Church
Hooper Neck Road, Taylors Island, Dorchester County
Bethlehem M.E. Church is a gable-front common bond brick church facing west across the road from a very substantial mid-19th century cemetery. The main facade, or west gable end, of the church has a central entrance flanked by two windows with pilasters at the corners and a pediment over all. Each leaf of the double doors has two octagonal panels at the top and two at the bottom with two octagonal panels set back from the architrave, which is a rather simple facing with a very heavy cornice supported by brackets; below this cornice is a row of dentils. The two windows have 9/9 sash and cornices similar to that over the door. At the corners are brick pilasters with wooden capitals. Between these capitals and the pediment is a frieze with dentil molding. In the center of the pediment is a stone plaque reading: Bethlehem Methodist-Episcopal Church 1857. At the apex of the roof in front of the chapel is a square base with a wide, overhanging cornice supporting an octagonal belfry. Above this is an octagonal dome with a spire superimposed, making it look like an inverted ice cream cone. The spire is covered with copper, with a star at its apex. The church is three bays deep, with three windows on each side with 9/9 sash and louvered shutters. Above each window is a recessed, semicircular arch. On each side of the building is a stepped brick cornice painted white to match the wood cornice across the front. At the rear of the building is a small projection along the center of the gable, which is lighted by a 4/4 sash window on either side of the projection.
Architecturally, Bethlehem Church is the best example of a mid-19th century Methodist chapel in Dorchester County. It is also the only one to be built of brick, and retains its original interior, down to the kerosene lamps and chandelier. The building is a simple, well constructed structure typical of the mid 19th century in form and detail. This site has been used by the Methodists since the 18th century and is the first site connected with this denomination in Dorchester County. The fact that Bethlehem was one of the Methodist churches to split from the main church during the schism over slavery reflects the general conservatism of the Eastern Shore at that time, as well as the belief in the plantation system in this particular area of the Shore.