Bell Tower


Rocky Mount, United States

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At the Church Street United Methodist Church
Knoxville, Tennessee

Church Street United Methodist Church – Historical Timeline

The direct predecessor to Church Street UMC – White’s Chapel — is built on East Hill Avenue as the first Methodist church in the city of Knoxville, 13 years after the first Methodist church in Knox County is formed. The 1816 church initially had 68 members.

A new church building on Church Street (later Church Avenue) is completed.

During the Civil War, the church is used as a hospital and as a stable. A split between church members over the war also results in some joining the Northern branch of the Methodist church and forming the separate First Methodist Church. Church Street Methodist remains with the Southern branch of the church.

The church is officially called Church Street Methodist for the first time by order of Holston Conference. It had formerly been known as the Methodist Church in Knoxville.

After a court battle over whether Church Street Methodist or First Methodist owned the church property, Church Street is given ownership again.

A new church structure is built on the north side of West Church Street (Avenue), halfway between Market Street and Walnut Street.

A three-story parsonage is erected next to the 1878 church.

On Feb. 19, the church is destroyed by a fire, which breaks out at the close of the Sunday night service. While a new structure is planned and constructed a short distance away on Henley Street, the church members hold worship services in the Lyric Theater and later the Riviera Theater. Sunday school is held at several downtown buildings, including the YWCA Building, the Lyceum Building and the Masonic Temple.

In a love triangle case that captures major headlines in Knoxville, general contractor Harry Gervin is shot and kllled on May 16 on the grounds of the under-construction church. Eugene Blanchard is immediately arrested.

On Jan. 28, the opening service is held for Church Street’s new stone Gothic structure, which includes a sanctuary and education wing. It had been designed collaboratively by church member Charles Barber and the well-known New York firm of John Russell Pope, whose work also included the Jefferson Memorial and the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The beauty of the church would draw much praise, and President Franklin Roosevelt reportedly once called it during a visit to Knoxville the prettiest church he had ever seen.

The first of the stained-glass windows designed by noted artisan Charles J. Connick of Boston is dedicated behind the altar. Over the next several years, Connick windows are installed throughout the sanctuary and paid for by individual church members as memorial or honorary gifts.

After Church Street Church overcomes nearly losing title to its building during the tight financial times of the Great Depression, the note on the structure is finally paid off and dedication services and activities are held Nov. 15-22.

The education building on the southwest end of the church is completed and dedicated with a cornerstone ceremony on Easter Sunday 1964. Also, Miss Bess Platt retires as church organist and choir director after 41 years.

The church’s new Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ is dedicated. It would be repaired, rebuilt and expanded in subsequent years. The first organ in the Henley and Main facility was a Pilcher, while a Moller organ had been in the church that burned to the ground in 1928.

Construction begins on the church’s Sterchi Lodge on Rich Mountain alongside the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Built on property given to the church by Nathan and Allene Jones, the lodge was originally named for Bishop Francis Asbury but was later renamed in memory of John W. Sterchi, who had died in 1968 in Florida. Also during the year, Church Street Methodist becomes Church Street United Methodist Church after the Evangelical and United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church join together.

The church opens a child day care center.

Church Street UMC hosts the Holston Annual Conference for the last time before Lake Junaluska, N.C., becomes the regular site. Previous times the church hosted the gathering at Henley and Main were 1933, 1942, 1944, 1950, 1957, and 1966.

Church Street UMC is heavily involved in the nearby 1982 World’s Fair by offering parking, tours of the church and other activities. The church also begins its “Rejoice!” TV ministry and its Singles’ Ministry, one of the first in the nation.

Church Street begins a soup kitchen meal ministry to the homeless and marginalized on Sept. 27.

The Church Life Center on the northwest end of the church complex is opened. Also opening inside the new facility is the Kay Senior Care Center.

An April 9 arson fire that starts in the stage area of the Parish Hall damages the church and forces services to be held in the Church Life Center gym for several months.

Church Street UMC launches its first website.

The first annual “Walk through Bethlehem” event is held. Open to the entire community, this event recreates the village of Bethlehem as it might have been the night Jesus was born.

During Lent, Church Street unveiled its new canvas Labyrinth. During the same time, the Mini-Messenger was created as a brief, reminder page given out on Sundays in the Sunday School packets.

The church celebrates the 75th anniversary of its facility at Henley and Main streets with special services and activities throughout the year. At the end of the year, some bells originally cast at the Paccard Bell Foundry in France are installed in the church tower.

Jim Rogers retires as organist and choirmaster after 29 years of service.

Artwork Comments

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