Capitol Street Methodist Is Falling Down

Once it was a landmark of growth and progress, only the second Methodist congregation in Jackson, just across the railroad tracks in the fashionable new suburban area being laid out on West Capitol Street. Then it became the symbol of human fickleness, its suburban population moving to the latest suburbs on the northern side of the city in the 1960s and 1970s. By the early 1990s, its congregation was gone. Last week, after years of abandonment and neglect, Capitol Street Methodist Church, began to collapse and soon it will be demolished, its vacant lot joining the many others on West Capitol, a scene only of memories, and then after a few years even those will be gone.

Built in 1912, the Gothic Revival-style Capitol Street Methodist was possibly designed by Chattanooga architect Reuben Harrison Hunt and built by Jacksonian I.C. Garber, both of whom built many other solid and imposing landmarks around the state and region. It has been one of my rare joys when I drive out to West Jackson, crossing Gallatin Street, to look across at these two towers still standing strong. I’ll miss that. The 1950s portion of the campus is still occupied by Voice of Calvary Ministries, and I assume they are the owner of the older building as well. I noticed a few years ago that the stained glass windows had been removed from the 1912 building, never a good sign for an old church as it generally means the owners are just taking everything of value before the building is too far gone.

West Capitol Street still has many of its imposing landmarks but it has lost many even in the last decade. The demolition of Capitol Street Methodist will mark a huge change on the street, and gives warning about some of the other under-utilized or abandoned buildings in West Jackson, such as the imposing Masonic Temple whose clocks are also ticking away–unless something is done to save them, they too will one day be too far gone to bring back to life.

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Categories: Churches, Demolition/Abandonment, Jackson

30 replies

  1. Such a waste of a good building. It seems a shame that at least parts of it could not be rescued from the wrecker’s ball.

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  2. Why did they let it go so far into decay? Even if they had decided, sadly, to take the building down, why did they wait until it could become dangerous with the roof caving in? Someone needs to at least save the wonderful bricks and anything else that can be salvaged to perhaps save another building before it too is lost. Sad about the windows, though this seems to be a common theme. I guess I can understand the congregation feeling that the windows should go in a new building, but to leave a shell and just walk away is just wrong to me. I hope something good can come from this beautiful structure.

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  3. Interesting to see the difference in new churches being built today and this grand structure. Can you imagine the first Sunday the doors opened for the first service and the beauty of that service? What a sense of accomplishment everyone must have felt! The planning, the giving and the love that went into it. Sad.

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  4. I worshiped at Capitol St. UMC when I was in college and it was a beautiful sanctuary, indeed. God was in that place and it was a great place to experience Him each week.

    Just to clarify something… The congregation did not take the windows for a new building. The church was growing very old when I was there. I was one of about 10 members under the age of 60, I think, and most of us were college kids singing in the choir. The simple story is that the church grew old and died. There were no new members joining and they eventually reached a point where they couldn’t afford to keep the doors open.

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    • You are correct, CRPIII, unlike many others, the CS UMC did not move, take the windows and start a new church. The church closed its doors several years ago and most of the remnant of the CS congregation moved to Galloway UMC, just a few blocks away; several of them have passed away since then. I presume the property reverted to the care of the The Mississippi Conference of the UMC and, if so, I find it deporable that they would neglect the property to the point of it becoming dangerous. Since I attend Galloway myself, I’ll see if I can find out what happened to the windows and how the Conference let the happen.

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      • When Christ United Methodist built a new building in 2005, they purchased some of the stained glass from Capitol Street Methodist. You can see many pieces on display at the CUMC church on Old Canton Road, especially in a private prayer room that is just gorgeous. I was a member of CUMC in 2005 and remember being told where all the great stained glass pieces came from.

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      • I spoke with a neighbor who works for the Mississippi Conference of the UMC. She said that the Conference was not the owner but was not aware of who was the owner.

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  5. Was there a fire in the main sanctuary that caused the collapse or just rot? When I last attended this church in Dec of 1966 it was still in good shape as far as I could tell. As a teenager in jackson in the 60s I expolred most all parts of the buildings including attic and basement and I can remember all vividly. I dont think there was any part of the complex that I was not in at one time or another. I was 11 when we moved to jackson in 1958 and 19 when we left. I miss Jackson very much but on my last visit in 98 things had changed a lot, some not for the better, and I was sad to see it. Jim Miller past member Capitol street methodist church and boy scout troop 3, graduate of Provine high school now residing in Waco, Texas.

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    • I don’t believe there was a fire. I first noticed a bow in the roof ridge when I was at the grand opening of the King Edward and was up on the roof deck looking out to the west. That would have been in 2009. There was obviously a structural weakness, and I don’t know what caused it, but I would guess just neglect and rot. I was out that way about a month ago and the building is still there, but almost all of the roof has now collapsed. It’s very sad. I remember several years ago when I saw Liverpool in England and being shocked to see once-grand, imposing churches–multiple downtown churches–in a state of complete collapse, just rotting away. It was so striking and definitely gave the impression of a city that once was great and which now was not.

      On the other hand, if the last time you were here was 1998, you might be surprised to see downtown Jackson now, especially the new life that the King Edward Hotel has brought back to West Capitol. It’s certainly not the same as when you grew up here–hardly any retail downtown still–but there’s a lot more life than there was in 1998. Fondren–my neighborhood–is also bursting with life and vibrant small businesses. Check it out next time through!

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      • Thanks for the update. I used to know those buildings inside and out. Nice to know that the King Edward is back. My senior prom dance was at the King in 1965. All I can see of jackson now is on google Earth and some of those pictures are several years old so much could have changed and I would not know about it. I have not made it to any of my class reunions since gas is so expensive I just use that as an excuse not to come. I will admit the trip is a lot quicker than when we moved to Jackson in 58 and there was only highway 80 from Dallas to Jackson and no interstate. What was once a 12 hour drive can be done legally in about 8 now. Maybe I will make the trip one more time before I get too old to make it. I turn 65 in January of 2012.

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    • I remember seeing quite a few shingles missing on my last trip in 98 and things like this going unrepaired cause wood to rot from rain and eventually fall down
      Unlike most buildings built today all the heating and air conditioning equipment and ductwork was in the basement along with the organ blower. I wonder who got the pipe organ? You surely don’t want to demolish a building without salvaging such an instrument! The organ had electronic chimes also and outside loudspeakers atop the tower in the Adams at Capitol street side. There was a plaque in a corredor stating the Clarionic Bells were dedicated to WW II Veterans. There were many rooms inside the main building. If anyone is interested in additional information about the many parts of the building complex I can probably answer most of those questions. Jim Miller Member CSUMC 1958-1967. wb5oxq@grandecom.net

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  6. In one picture of the Adams street side where the roof and upper part of the wall hs fallen you can clearly see the backs of the balcony seats. In a close up of this shot you can see the pulley and rope used to raise or lower the partition seperating the sanctuary into two sections for large or small congregations. I used to get to raise or lower it and you had to climb a ladder into the attic and manually do that.

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  7. It’s all gone now. I watched the tower get knocked down this past week. It was sad to see a beautiful building such as this one fall apart through neglect.

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    • I’m too sad about it to even go over there and look. Seeing those seemingly sturdy towers looming up always defined the entrance to West Jackson for me.

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    • Bill, not sure the same one I knew long ago, but hello if it is. Just wanted to know if they were able to save any of the beautiful wood. But, alas who knows if it was still beautiful. Just broke my heart to read your post. Thank you for the post.

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  8. Is the new chappel on the east side and the sunday school building on the Capitol street side still there or did they bulldoze everything?

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  9. I was telling my daughter in law what a beautiful church this had been and so we looked it up to see if we could see the windows somewhere and this is what she found. She hated that such a happy moment of memories came to such sorry. My mother was a member until it closed. There were so few people that it became impossible to sustain. My parents were one of the youngest in the congregation and dad was 67 when he died in 1993 and mom was 63. I even purchased new choir robes for them awhile before they closed as theirs were just worn out. I believe 1995 -6 was when they closed. We became members in 1970. Mom sang in the choir. I have not lived there since 1981 but we always went to service when the kids and I came home. It was if we never left. My sons also loved this church even though they were only children. They always had someone ready to teach Sunday School in case some child showed up. They loved to sit in the balcony and eat lunch after service. The congregation tried to think of ways to use the church. We even tried a day care for awhile to use the facilites and to give back to the community. Did you know they fed the Adams Street people ( boarding houses with people released from Whitfield) on Sundays for many years and clothed them? My father, Erwin Buchanan, painted the childrens room with Noahs Ark and the animals. The windows went to other churches and the pipe organ also. I took pictures inside and out sometime around then as we knew it was closing. I have been to churches all my life and this church was the church of all churches. Not only was it beautiful inside and out but so were the members of the congregation. I know that there were other activities there for awhile after the church officially closed but do not know for sure what or how long. I moved mom to Texas in 1996. Such sorrow, such loss for a fine old church.

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  10. I just discovered my grandparents marriage certificate. They were married here in this church in 1911. I wondered what happened to all the records of the church as my mother was baptised there and played the organ on Sundays as a small girl. I lost her at the age of 91 last year. Can you help? Many thanks! Amy

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  11. In Feb 1951 there was one of the worst ice and snow storms in Mississippi’s history. My aunt (my mother’s sister) was to be married in First Baptist, Jackson. However, Capitol Street Methodist was the only church that had survived the power outtage (both heat and light) and she and her fiance were married in CSM. I have many fond memories (at 7 years old) and have watched over the years when I visit Jackson as to to the decline of this historical church. I wish it could be saved.

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  12. Very sad -Many memories: Rev. Roy C. Clark (1960s), Mr. and Mrs. McCool and the music program, Rev. Keith Tonkel , a student at Milsaps then, was helping with a very active youth program. Those and many more wonderful Christians passed through those church doors. Too bad the building cannot talk. – James Stokes, member CS 1958 – 1964.

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  13. Reading all of the above comments about CSM stimulates many fond memories for me. I attended the church from age 6 or so until age 19, from 1943-1957, when I was attending Brookhaven College for music theory classes (Virginia Hoogenaker) and voice (Charles McCool) as a freshman music major registered at Millsaps College. I was also tenor soloist at CSM that year on a voice scholarship. Charles McCool was the choir director, Roy Clark, the senior minister, and Clay Lee, associate minister. Jim Livesay (one of my mentors) was very much involved with leading the high school and college youth, and the Methodist Youth Fellowship flourished during what might have been the church’s peak years. Central HS was the only HS in Jackson (for white folks) until 1955, when Provine and Murrah were completed for service in the fall of that year. I’m highly indebted to the men and women leaders for setting high standards of religious and spiritual education during the years I attended the church. My parents continued attending CSM until it’s disbanding, and my wife, Bettye, and I attended a few times when in town, sometimes performing for the morning worship service and singing in the choir. The decline over the years was very apparent, with attendance falling. During the years my family and I attended the sanctuary was filled, and we even had two services in the late 50s. Later, whenever visiting, attendance was sparse, and the sliding dividing wall that enlarged the sanctuary was always closed. May this great church rest in peace, having provided moral guidance, comfort, and inspiration to numbers of faithful members and visitors for several decades.

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  14. mY DAD TAUGHT THE CRUSADERS CLASS FOR ADULTS FROM ABOUT 63 UNTIL WE LEFT TOWN IN 67 yES I REMEMBER cHARLS AND EVELYN MCCOOL AND DRI CLARK AS WELL AS JIM LYVSAY AND DONT FORGET THE LESTERS, GARNER AND MISS ANNIE. THERE USED TO BE FAMILY NIGHT ON WEDNESDAYS WITH FOOD SERVED IN THE FELLOWSHIP HALL IT WAS A WONDERFUL TIME IN THE 60S

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  15. Some of the windows are in the Parkway United Methodist Church in Madison on Highland Colony. They were placed there when the church was built in the late 90’s (??).

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  16. Fascinating to read these comments–my family attended Capitol Street from 1960-1964. In the 1953-54 conference year, the church had three future United Methodist bishops there on Sundays: Roy Clark, senior pastor (elected a bishop in 1980), Clay Lee, associate pastor (elected a bishop in 1988), and Mary Ann McDonald, then a child, elected a bishop in 1992 (Mary Ann McDonald Swenson). You can see a photo from one of the darker chapters of the church’s history on the cover of Carolyn Dupont’s Mississippi Praying (NYU Press, 2013): http://www.amazon.com/Mississippi-Praying-Southern-Evangelicals-1945-1975/dp/0814708412

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  17. The last members of Capital St. UMC including Bishop Mary Ann Swanson’s mother, Mary McDonald worked hard to keep the door of the magnificent church open. Various downtown ministries utilized space in the building. Despite the efforts of those dedicated members, the expense and efforts to maintain such a large facility became more than those few wonderful people could maintain and the only option was to be discontinued as a worshiping congregation. At that time I had been appointed to begin a new congregation in Madison. The new church became Parkway Hills UMC worshiping at Madison Central High School waiting, but yet planning, for a building of our own. We learned of the plans to close Capital Street and their plans to sell the stained glass windows that adorned the sanctuary and other parts of the facility. The stained glass windows were Tiffany-style but not true Tiffany windows installed in Capital Street in 1911. Christ UMC purchased one or two windows. Parkway Hills was blessed to be able to purchase all the stained glass windows from the Capital Street sanctuary and others from the building. The windows were removed, crated, and stored in a climate-controlled storage unit in Jackson. Six of the windows were installed in the first phase of Parkway Hills and another 5 or six were installed in Phase 2. The other windows remain safely stored awaiting construction of the next phase. When they were installed at Parkway Hills, the design by Albert & Associates Architects in Hattiesburg and construction by Greg Sahler Construction was not only to used the windows but also to display them as historic, artistic artifacts. The windows were purchased through donations made by members of the Parkway Hills congregation. Since Capital Street was discontinued the purchase of the windows was made through payments to five ministries of the Mississippi Conference as designated by the members of Capital Street UMC. Among the five were Camp Wesley Pines and United Methodist Senior Services. After completion of Phase 1 a Capital St. reunion was held at Parkway Hills for the surviving members so they could see the first of the windows reinstalled.
    Rev. Bruce Taylor
    Founding Pastor, Parkway Hills UMC, Madison, MS

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  18. The pipe organ from Capitol Street UMC was rebuilt and installed in St Dominic Catholic Church, Mobile, Alabama. One of the Parish’s older members grew up at Capitol Street and now hears the same instrument he heard as a child.

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