523 Church Street – 1910
The first American-born bishop of the Methodist Church, William McKendree was closely associated with the establishment of the Methodist Church in Tennessee. Born in Virginia in 1757, McKendree visited Nashville as early as 1797. Three years later, he became the church’s Western District field marshal and took on the responsibility of organizing new churches and circuits and recruiting new preachers. McKendree proved to be “the superintendent who most significantly influenced the development of Methodism in Tennessee.” (1) Elected bishop in 1808, McKendree moved to Nashville permanently and lived there until his death. In 1812, with Bishop Francis Asbury, McKendree organized the Tennessee Conference, the general governing organization for Methodism in Tennessee.
His last sermon came at Nashville’s McKendree Methodist Church upon its dedication on November 23, 1834. McKendree died in 1835 and was buried in Sumner County; later his remains were reinterred at Vanderbilt University.
From Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture
Here’s the church history from their website:
On March 9, 1832, the lot on which McKendree now stands was purchased, and the first building completed in 1833. Bishop William McKendree dedicated the church on November 23, 1834, and at that time the church was re-named in his honor. The new church was quite a stately undertaking for its day. The sanctuary seated 1500 people, and was the largest Methodist Church in the United States at that time.
During the Civil War the Union Army took over McKendree Church, and converted it into an Army hospital. The building took much use during the war, and in 1876 the congregation decided to build a new one. This new building took three years to complete and became known as the “high steeple Gothic church.” The middle steeple was 230 feet high and the towers on each side rose 130 feet. This beautiful Gothic church was dedicated January 29, 1879, but its beauty was short-lived. On Sunday, October 26, of the same year, the church caught fire after the close of the evening service. The building was completely destroyed, and the cause of the fire was never learned.The congregation began at once to rebuild their meeting place. On May 7, 1882, the third church on the present site was dedicated. It was modeled like the previous church but had more practical features and was in a more Norman-Gothic style. In June of 1905 plans were made to put in stained-glass windows and renovate the building. This work had barely begin when on July 4th the church was again devastated by flames. It is thought that a firecracker accidentally shot inside an open window. The building burst into flames just after midnight and was again destroyed.
After much debate the congregation decided to rebuild on the same location. The cornerstone of the present building was laid on December 10, 1907 and in January of 1910 the church was completed. It was located further back from the street with a large lawn. The sanctuary had the first “echo organ” in the South. The beautiful windows (a combination of stained-glass and art glass), showing scenes from the life of Christ, were installed in 1910.
In 1932 construction on the “education addition” to the rear of the church was begun. This provided a kitchen and fellowship area, nursery and toddler space and much-needed Sunday School classrooms. In 1965, it was decided to use the large space in front of the church for the building of an addition to provide room for the growing needs of the church. This four-floor addition contains classroom space, a large fellowship hall, kitchen, drama facilities, and staff offices. In general design, the front of the new addition resembles the face of the old building. It presents a beautiful symbol of the Christian faith at the center of a great city.