Tour Stop A
501 Grant Street
Saint Paul United Methodist Church
Each year, the Grant Park Candlelight Tour of Homes begins at St. Paul United Methodist Church, a cornerstone of the Grant Park community since 1906. Once housing the largest Methodist Episcopal congregation in the South with over 2,300 members, the 110-year-old building was designed in the Neo-Romanesque style and constructed of local granite. Interior details include cove ceilings, decorative columns and capitals, paneled woodwork, original heart pine floors, clerestory windows, and abundant stained glass. The large pipe organ, still in use today, was acquired from the 1887 Piedmont Exposition when the church – formed in 1870 – met in a previous building on Hunter Street.
In the late 1920s, a three-story brick education building was constructed behind the sanctuary to accommodate the large and growing Sunday school classes. Membership remained strong into the 1950s, but declined drastically in the 1960s and 1970s as the suburbs grew and old neighborhoods like Grant Park fell into decline. A predawn fire in 1985 razed the education building, but the community rallied to help the by-then small congregation to rebuild the classroom building with a gymnasium by 1987.
In the early 1990s, falling ceiling plaster prompted a renovation of the sanctuary. Repairs included a new roof, refurbished walls, ceiling, floors and pews, and wiring upgrades. Extensive smoke damage from a fire in the sanctuary in September, 2014 – almost miraculously discovered and extinguished minutes before becoming a major blaze – necessitated another renovation and fresh paint.
The beautiful “Resurrection” stained glass window was saved from deterioration and restored in 2004 through a generous donation, and other needed repair and restoration work is ongoing. A current fundraising effort called the Cornerstone Campaign is underway to raise the funds necessary to re-point the crumbling mortar of the exterior granite and repair the plaster and wood paneling in the sanctuary, among other things.
With a rich history, St. Paul United Methodist today remains a vital part of the neighborhood as an inclusive and welcoming church. Whether helping neighbors with housing needs or hosting a local youth basketball league, St. Paul continues to minister in a myriad of ways to a diverse and ever-changing community, and looks forward to the next 110 years as a neighborhood resource and refuge.