© Jerry F. Couch
NEXT YEAR THE ST. PAUL FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH WILL ENTER ITS SECOND CENTURY. The church was organized in 1922 with initial meetings taking place in rented or borrowed quarters. In April of`1923 the church purchased three lots on the corner of Wise Street and Fourth Avenue from Ollie M. Shadeed. We may safely assume construction of the present church building began soon afterwards. The clipping below is from the March 27, 1922 edition of The World News of Roanoke, Virginia.
The church building is certainly one of the most remarkable building in St. Paul. It was designed in a cruciform plan by master architect Donald Beeson and combines elements of both Georgian and Greek Revival classic architecture. According to local legend, the arrival of the church’s cast-iron Corinthian columns by train was a source of great interest in St. Paul. When the columns were erected, a crowd gathered to watch. High drama in those pre-infotainment days!
The beautiful stained glass windows of the Baptist Church were recently conserved. The wooden sashes were renovated where necessary, and broken panes were replaced. Laws Stained Glass Studios, Inc. of Statesville, NC performed the work and did an excellent job. Protective acrylic exterior coverings were also installed to prevent future damage to the vintage windows.
According to oral history, the church’s stained glass windows were donated by various church members as solid evidence of their support and commitment. This year’s conservation effort is an example of the continuing support and commitment by the church’s present congregation.
NOW LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT SOME PHOTOS FROM YEARS GONE BY.
(PICTURED ABOVE) THE CHURCH AND ITS CONGREGATION, CIRCA. 1930
The photo above was taken on Mothers Day, May 12, 1940 to record the church’s “homecoming service” for posterity. As part of the celebration, the church’s recently paid final note in the amount of $2,850 was burned in ceremony. The church members who had affixed their signatures in guarantee of the original deed of trust must have been particularly thankful that day. The church’s first pastor, Rev .J. R. Craft of Gate City, returned as guest speaker at the service. The church’s pastor in 1940 was Rev. Nelson T. Barker.
The CVT archival photo above was taken in 1973. It is noteworthy because it depicts two of the structures designed by architect Donald Beeson – the church, and the home Beeson built for himself on Third Avenue. That house, demolished years ago, was sold by Beeson to Mrs. Caroline Molinary in the ‘teens and was home to three generations of the Molinary family prior to being torn down. The demolition was rendered necessary due to the instability of the cut through the adjacent hillside, extending Wise Street through the Riverside development to Hwy 58. That geological instability, then as now, is due to fault line that runs through St. Paul – which we are told is seismically inactive at this time.
Two noteworthy changes have been made to the church building during its 99 years. The educational wing was built in the early 1960’s and the most recent addition was the steeple pictured below.
UPDATE – SEPTEMBER 17, 2021
The following announcement was received today from Larry Marshall on behalf of the St. Paul First Baptist Church:
“We have received enough donations to completely pay (with $193 extra) for the project to install protective coverings over the church stained glass windows. We can rest assured that our beautiful windows will be protected for many years to come! A great big thank you to all the folks that donated to this project!!”