St. Ambrose Episcopal Church houses the second African-American Episcopal church in the state of North Carolina. It has its roots in the denomination's outreach to newly emancipated communities by the Freedman's Commission of the Protestant Episcopal Church through St. Augustine's Normal and Collegiate Institute, now St. Augustine's University. The church, originally known as St. Augustine's Church, was founded in February 1868. The church was re-named St. Ambrose in 1896 at the suggestion of diocesan Bishop Joseph Blount Cheshire reflecting the close relationship with the school from whence it started, like the relationship between Saints Ambrose and Augustine.
After the church left the St Augustine's campus, a Carpenter Gothic building, later demolished, housed the congregation at two locations closer to Raleigh's downtown. However by 1961 the congregation had purchased a suburban parcel for a new building designed by prolific Raleigh architect Lief Valand. Valand's design for St Ambrose was a departure from traditional styles of church architecture. Its complex was decidedly modern in a number of ways. By having flexible support spaces for education, meetings, and programming, and by designing the complex to easily accommodate later additions, it responded to a new concept of church that expanded beyond a space for worship to a larger campus for education and outreach. The site on a large suburban lot provided parking capacity for an expanded range of activities and addressed the demands of the growing car culture. And its A-frame form and use of new materials and construction methods further defined its modernity.
Hanbury Preservation Consulting prepared the nomination pro bono in celebration of the church's 150th Anniversary. It was listed on the National Register in December 2019. The nomination can be found here.