Methodism came to Alexandria in the early days of our city and was first mentioned in the minutes of the annual meeting of Methodists (called a Conference) in 1791. A small group of Methodists had been meeting in various locations in the city since 1774 and built their first church on Duke Street. Two early and influential Methodist Bishops, Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke, came to Alexandria in 1785 and visited General George Washington at Mount Vernon.

In 1803 a new church was built between King and Prince Streets on the east side of South Washington Street. Alexandria Station, later to become Trinity Methodist Church, was our mother church. Various groups began to withdraw from Trinity as early as 1828 to form their own congregations. These included the Methodist Protestant Church and Roberts Chapel (now Roberts Memorial UMC). Methodism continued to grow rapidly in the community. In 1843, the congregation at Trinity again started looking toward forming a new church. On June 1, 1849, Washington Street Methodist Episcopal Church was formed by almost a quarter of the Trinity congregation.

The first worship services of the new church were held in the Lyceum building that still stands at the corner of Washington and Prince Streets. After a short time, The Virginia Conference appointed a young man of thirty-four, Rev. Leonidas Rosser, as the first regular minister of the church. Rev. Rosser conducted a fund-raising revival throughout the South to raise funds for a church building for his congregation. He preached whenever possible to various denominations and raised $10,000 in eight months.

Washington Street Church paid $1,800 for a lot on the west side of South Washington Street directly across the street from Trinity, and the cornerstone of the sanctuary building was laid on September 12, 1850, with a Masonic ceremony. This is the same structure that still stands as the church today.

oldfacade1862During the Civil War Years, Alexandria was occupied by Union troops just one month after the attack on Fort Sumter. On January 6, 1862, the U.S. military forces took possession of the Washington Street Church and used the sanctuary as a hospital while the first floor served as a stable. The church was returned to the congregation in 1865 and reopened for use in October of that year after major repairs.

Additional major renovations occurred in 1875-76 changing the front of the building from Greek Revival to reconstruction Gothic and again in 1899 when the stained-glass windows, oak pews with cushions and many other improvements were made.

As the Methodist Church in the United States evolved over the years, the name of the church changed several times. The names were: Methodist Episcopal Church, South (1849), Washington Street M. E. Church, South (1907), Washington Street Methodist Church (1939), and Washington Street United Methodist Church (1966).

Over a period of 150+ years, WSUMC has become a steadfast landmark in the heart of Alexandria, Virginia, serving the people of the community in countless ways. Leaders of the city have often been members of the congregation so there is a strong connection to many civic entities. Our strong mission program has supported many missionaries for years in the Philippines, China, Congo, Rhodesia, and Japan. We continue our mission work both locally through ALIVE, Carpenter’s Shelter, and other programs, and in places around the world by providing relief when relief is needed in response to natural disasters.