Vaughan, J. K., Jr. (1839-1895)

Variant Name(s):

J. K. Vaughan; Jacob K. Vaughan, Jr.; Jacob Keen Vaughan, Jr.


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA


  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Wilmington, North Carolina


  • Architect

Styles & Forms:

Gothic Revival

J. K. (Jacob Keen) Vaughan (Vaughn), Jr. (July 15, 1839-June 1, 1895), an architect from a noted Philadelphia shipbuilding family, was active in Wilmington, N. C., after the Civil War. His best-known work is St. Stephen’s (St. Stephen) A. M. E. Church, one of the state’s principal churches built for an African American congregation in the late 19th century.

J. K. Vaughan, Jr., was a descendant of a family of French Huguenot ancestry who had been prominent in Philadelphia for many years. He was one of several children of prosperous ship builder Jacob Keen Vaughan (Vaughn) (d. 1886) and Matilda Ramsey Vaughan. He was listed in their household in the United States Census of 1850 as “King,” aged 11: possibly he was known as “Keen” and the census taker heard “King.” Jacob, Sr., and his sons were affiliated with the Methodist church and were members of the city’s Kensington Soup Society, an illustrious charitable group associated with the Methodist church.

By the 1860 census, J. K. Vaughan, Jr., was no longer listed in his parents’ household, but it is not yet known where he was at that time. He reportedly married Margaret Souder Marshall, but records of his early life are missing thus far. He is also said to have served as a lieutenant in Pennsylvania troops during the Civil War. Nothing is known of how he gained his architectural training or experience. The 1874 Philadelphia city directory listed J. K. Vaughan, architect, living at 605 Sansom Street.

According to Cynthia Brown in Strength from our Past, Faith for our Future: A History of St. Stephen African Methodist Episcopal Church (2015), the elder Jacob Vaughan came to Wilmington shortly after the Civil War a as superintendent of construction for the Department of the Treasury’s Light-House Board, and he brought his son with him to help repair the light ship at Frying Pan Shoals near Wilmington. These events evidently led to the younger Vaughan’s move to Wilmington.

The “Hotel Arrivals” section of the Wilmington Morning Star of May 14, 1878, noted that Vaughan (probably Jr.) had arrived at the Purcell House on May 13 from Charleston. Thereafter, Wilmington newspapers carried occasional notices of his activities.

It is not known how Vaughan gained the commission to design the church for the St. Stephen’s A. M. E. congregation, but as noted in Strength from our Past, original records in the possession of the congregation document a payment of $30.00 on April 24, 1880, to J. K. Vaughan for architectural drawings. J. E. Sampson, a man of color and leader in the congregation, was the site supervisor. The membership of St. Stephen’s—a large, black congregation organized promptly as a separate A. M. E. congregation after the Civil War from the racially mixed, majority black Front Street Methodist Church—had worshiped for several years in a wooden church. According to the Wilmington Daily Review of July 19, 1880, the congregation was “probably the largest in the State, either white or colored.”

By 1879 the congregation was preparing for construction of a large, brick edifice. Church leaders maintained a handwritten record of the multi-year project which began early in 1880. The old frame church was razed, a temporary “tabernacle” erected, and the brick church begun. The Wilmington Morning Star of February 26, 1880, reported that the congregation had already purchased 125 tons of stone for the foundation and basement and a large quantity of brick. When the local newspaper announced that the cornerstone of St. Stephen’s was to be laid on September 27, 1880, the building was already under construction.

Over the years, various individuals including members of the congregation participated in construction, which required many years as funding permitted. By 1881, construction had advanced sufficiently that the congregation began meeting in the basement. The Wilmington Morning Star of January 7, 1885, reported that the brickwork had been completed but that the interior work had remained incomplete for a time and was now underway, with artisans “engaged on the galleries and beautiful scrollwork, pulpit, etc.” Lewis Hollingsworth, “colored,” was identified as the contractor.

Construction of the steeple came a few years later. The Wilmington Messenger of October 8, 1893, reported on the progress of St. Stephens A. M. E. Church, noting that the new steeple, “quite a handsome piece of work,” was complete except for “a little painting.” The 126-foot high steeple was covered for 53 feet or more with slate and topped by an iron finial. “J. K. Vaughan was the architect who drew the plans and the contractor for the work was Louis Hollinsworth” (Lewis Hollingsworth). The article identified Hollingsworth as a “well known colored builder and contractor who retired from business a few years ago and is now residing in the country on his farm.” It explained, “Work on the steeple was commenced three weeks ago, and the contract was given to him because he had built the church a number of years ago. This church is now one of the handsomest colored churches in the Southern States, and it is quite a credit to the colored Methodists of Wilmington.”

Meanwhile, Vaughan was involved in other projects in the Wilmington area. In 1882, the Wilmington Daily Review of September 20 reported seeing a “very handsome drawing of the proposed new hotel at Smithville,” the town that later became known as Southport. “It was made by Mr. J. K. Vaughn (sic) and reflects much credit upon him.” The hotel was to stand 3 stories tall and measure 125 by 150 feet, with a large ballroom and one hundred rooms; the investor was one Mr. Perry. Whether it was completed is unclear.

J. K. Vaughan formed an association with leading Wilmington architect-builder James F. Post. The listing of architects in the Wilmington City Directory of 1889 showed James F. Post with his office at 212 Princess St., and J. H.(sic) Vaughan at the same address, and the directory of 1894 showed James. F. Post, contractor, at 211 Princess and J. K. Vaughen (sic), architect, boarding there. Of special interest is a surviving rendering for a proposed design for Wilmington’s Masonic Temple, which has “Jas, F. Post Arch’t” written in the lower right hand corner and (apparently) the date Nov. 1894. On the left hand lower corner, in different handwriting, is “J. K. Vaughan, Arch’t.” This was likely prepared during early planning for a Masonic temple in downtown Wilmington (see Masonic Temple [Unbuilt], building entry for details). The Mason’s imposing brick edifice, which was not constructed until 1899, was designed by Minnesota architect Charles McMillen. By the time that temple was completed, both Vaughan and Post had died.

After J. K. Vaughan’s death in 1895, the Wilmington Messenger of June 5 reported that his brother John Vaughan of Pittsburg, Pa., had come to Wilmington following the death of his brother, and that the remains of the “well known architect” J. K. Vaughan were to be transferred from the Oak Grove cemetery to the National Cemetery because he had been “in the Federal army during the civil war. . . . a lieutenant of a company in a Pennsylvania regiment.” His grave marker is located in the National Cemetery in Wilmington.

  • Cynthia Brown, Strength from our Past, Faith for our Future: A History of St. Stephen African Methodist Episcopal Church (2015).
  • Tony P. Wrenn, Wilmington, North Carolina: An Architectural and Historical Portrait (1984).
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  • Masonic Temple

    James F. Post, architect; J. K. Vaughan, architect

    Ca. 1894

    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    Wilmington, NC






    J. K. Vaughan and James F. Post produced a design for a Masonic temple for Wilmington early in the Masons’ planning. A surviving rendering for a proposed design for Wilmington’s Masonic Temple has “Jas, F. Post Arch’t” written in the lower right hand corner and (apparently) the date Nov. –1894). On the left hand lower corner, in different handwriting is “J. K. Vaughan, Arch’t..”; During the 1890s the Masons took several years to decide upon the site, the funding, and the design for a new temple. According to the Wilmington Messenger of May 22, 1896, and other reports, a corporation had been formed early in 1895 among five Masonic bodies located in Wilmington, to “erect a Temple for the use of the Masonic fraternity here in Wilmington,” and they were considering various plans to achieve their goal. “A number of architects have submitted plans for handsome buildings but we understand nothing definite will be decided upon for several months yet.” The Vaughan-Post drawing was probably among these. Not until 1898, according to the Wilmington Star of November 17, 1899, did the directors arrive at the plan for the temple which was built on Front Street in 1899. The winning proposal was submitted by Minnesota architect Charles McMillen, who specialized in Masonic buildings and who supervised the project. (The Vaughan-Post drawing is at the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society.)

  • St. Stephen’s A. M. E. Church

    Lewis Hollingsworth, contractor; J. K. Vaughan, architect
    Variant Name(s):

    St. Stephen A. M. E. Church


    1880-1887; 1893 (spire)

    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    502 N. Fifth St., Wilmington, NC





    Images Published In:

    Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (2005).
    Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Eastern North Carolina (1996).
    Tony P. Wrenn, Wilmington, North Carolina: An Architectural and Historical Portrait (1984).


    The church was originally called St. Stephen’s but has been known in recent years as St. Stephen. The cornerstone is inscribed, “St. Stephen’s A. M. E./ Church Built 1866/Rebuilt 1880.” A large annex to the church was built in 1913.

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