Landmarks of Grant Park

St. Paul United Methodist Church

Neighborhood History
Author: Adapted from a history by Caroline Fleischer

St. Paul United Methodist Church
501 Grant Street
Map and driving directions

The history of St. Paul United Methodist Church begins on Easter Sunday afternoon on April 21, 1867. On this day, a group of members from the Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church South (now Trinity United Methodist Church, located across from the Georgia State Capitol) began a mission for wounded Civil War Veterans and their families at the old Army hospital on Fair Street. Such a large number of worshipers turned out for this Sunday School service that soon there was “standing room only” and the windows of the hospital were opened wide so the crowd gathered outside on the lawn could join in the singing and hear the bible stories.

Soon after, in 1870, a new church named St. Paul Methodist Episcopal South was built on Hunter Street (now MLK, Jr. Drive) and began with 63 members. After the turn of the century, the congregation had grown so large that they began planning to build a new stone church in the residential neighborhood of Grant Park. Construction of the new church began in 1906. The first service was held in the new sanctuary in October of 1907 and was attended by over 1,200 members. The church, constructed of blocks of granite, was built in the Neo-Romanesque style and included intricate stained glass windows depicting the Resurrection and other biblical scenes. The large pipe organ, still in use today after being refurbished in the early 1990’s, was acquired from the Piedmont Cotton States Exhibition in 1887. Interior details include cove ceilings, decorative columns and capitals, paneled woodwork, and original heart pine wood floors.

By 1921, St. Paul ME had 2,345 members, all living within walking distance to the church. In the late 1920’s the three-story brick education building was added for Sunday School classes and group meals. Throughout the 1930’s and into the 1940’s the Grant Park neighborhood thrived and was considered one of the best middle class neighborhoods in the city. After World War II the neighborhood began to decline as families moved from cities to the suburbs. Construction of Interstate 20 cut the neighborhood and sent more long-time residents away from the area. Construction of Interstate 75/85 and Fulton County stadium also decreased the number of nearby residents. By the early 1970’s, one church member described Grant Park as a “neighborhood of sinking ships.”

In the 1970s an influx of new residents, attracted by the unique homes and the historical charm of the neighborhood, began a revival of the neighborhood and St. Paul UMC. In 1980, The Grant Park Learning Center was formed to provide childcare to families in the area, and was housed in the St. Paul UMC education building. In 1985 a predawn fire razed this building, and the congregation and community rallied together to rebuild the Learning Center, which was completed in 1987. In the early 1990’s the sanctuary was in need of renovation, most apparent by the falling plaster over the heads of the congregation. Faced with closing the church for good or raising repair funds, the small congregation chose to raise the needed funds to keep the doors of St. Paul UMC open. Beginning in the spring of 1991, major repairs were made to the building. The roof was replaced; walls floors and pews were replaced; and areas of the sanctuary were reworked to meet the church’s need for new meeting areas. The lettering frieze around the ceiling perimeter was selected by the congregation and painted by church members. In April of 1994, the renovation was complete and the congregation resumed worship on Palm Sunday.