Today we are excited to reveal to you the second set of Nashville doors that are a part of our ADoor Nashville blog series… West End Methodist Church!
West End Methodist Church began as a mission of McKendree Methodist Episcopal Church in 1869. It was called West Nashville Mission and the congregation of just 20 met in government barracks left over from the Civil War. A few years later in 1871, the name was changed to West End Mission, only for Mission to be dropped two years later in 1873.
By 1875, the congregation had grown to 68 members and was finally moved out of the government barracks of its earlier worshiping days and in to their own church space. The location of their first church was on the corner of Broad and Belmont (now 16th Avenue).
A decade passed since the first church had begun holding services before the second church, a tall brick structure at the intersection of 16th and Broad, was built. It was dedicated in 1890. A new Pastor was appointed in 1918, near the end of WWI. During this time in the church’s history, membership grew rapidly and surpassed 200. This pushed the church to select a new location for its house of worship, and the site facing the Vanderbilt campus was selected for a new church building.
The Education building was the first of the new campus to be occupied, and on Sunday, Oct. 27, 1929 its doors opened for the first time. The congregation’s plan was to proceed immediately into building the sanctuary, but just two days later the infamous stock market collapse began, and thus as did the Great Depression. This forced the congregation into gathering for worship in various Vanderbilt facilities. This pattern continued for ten years, with the state of the economy making the task of fund raising nearly impossible.
Finally, in 1937, the ground was broken for the sanctuary on Passion Sunday – March 10, 1940 – and with great joy the congregation finally worshiped in their own church once again. At this time, the stained glass windows that are quickly associated with the church were not all installed. It would take the next eight years before the rest of the windows were commissioned, installed and dedicated as funds were slowly received, making it possible. The entire sanctuary was dedicated in 1948 when the debt for the construction had been paid in full.
According to the West End Methodist web site, the stained glass windows of the West End Sanctuary are a distinctive and important part of the worship space. The art windows are the work of the D’Ascenzo Studios, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, distinguished glass artists under the direction of Nicola D’Ascenzo (1871-1954) whose work is in a number of churches and other buildings throughout the United States, including Riverside Church in New York City, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., The Folger Shakespeare Library in New York, and buildings at Yale and Princeton Universities. A window he designed for the RCA headquarters is now in the Smithsonian Institution.
In 1965, after a time of introspection and discussion by the church, changes began in the community, membership, and opportunities provided. Physically, the self-analysis led to remodeling and expansion of the educational, social and recreational facilities. A five-story addition was built during this time. Renovations continued through the 80s and 90s, including parking lot paving, increased lighting and more landscaping. Changes were also carried out to make the building accessible to those in wheelchairs and the chapel underwent renovations.
Today, West End Methodist sits proudly on West End Avenue in Nashville across from Vanderbilt University. It remains and important piece of history in middle Tennessee, full of stories and standing as a beautiful picture of the past, present and future of Music City. For more information about West End Methodist, view its website here.