Zoar Methodist Episcopal Church is a one-story brick building with a small social hall, adjacent to the Appoquinimink Quaker Meetinghouse. It was built on land sold by the Daniel Stevens family of Odessa. For more than 140 years Zoar Church was a worship center for the African American community. Zoar was integral to the spiritual needs of multiple generations of Black families who sought the blessings of their liberty.
Historically, Odessa was a community including free and enslaved African people. In 1845, African American Methodists in town bought a small building and named their house of worship Zoar Methodist Episcopal Church. Local legend from antebellum days tells of freedom seekers using the house of worship as a resting place en route to freedom in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In 1881, as the congregation grew, they built this brick building on the west side of town. It was one of the most substantial buildings in town at the time., at the western gateway to Odessa on the main road.
Zoar is a good example of mid-nineteenth century Gothic Revival architecture and is a contributing element to the Odessa Historic District. It may have been designed by a Philadelphia architect, Benjamin Price, who licensed a selection of his church plans to the Methodists.
Among the many clergy who served here was the Rev. Charles Albert Tindley, the "grandfather of gospel music," whose hymns and songs influenced gospel music artists from Thomas Dorsey to James Cleveland. Zoar was used regularly for services until 1973, when the church was declared a "limited service" church as membership decreased and expenses increased. By 1998 the building was rarely used, and has been unused since 2015.
In 2017, records were discovered in the abandoned church. The ceiling had collapsed because of roof leaks. A group of people began discussing how to preserve the building. The Friends of Zoar formed in 2021 to begin cleaning up the property prior to a full restoration, and title was transferred from the Peninsula Conference to them in November 2022.