RVA Legends — Park Place Methodist Church

RVA Legends — Park Place Methodist Church

A look into the history of Richmond places and people that have disappeared from our landscape.

[RVCJ93]

AKA, Park Place Methodist Episcopal Church South, Pace Memorial Methodist Church, Pace Memorial Center for Campus and Community Ministry
700 West Franklin Street
Built, 1886
Destroyed, 1966 (fire or arson)
Rebuilt, 1969

The church burned over Civil Rights. Maybe.

(LOC) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — Plate 87

The congregation of what is currently known as Pace Center for Campus and Community Ministry originated as a Sunday school started by Centenary Methodist Church for the Fan District of Richmond in 1855. Though a small chapel was built on Main Street within the next year, attendance steeply declined between 1861 and 1865 because of the war. In 1871, the Virginia Conference combined the congregation of the Fan District, then known as Sidney, with Oregon Charge, a congregation also organized by Centenary Church. The two congregations together were called Main Street Methodist Church in 1875, meeting at the Fan location between Laurel and Cherry Streets.

(Shockoe Examiner) — view of West Franklin Street, showing Park Place Methodist Church at center left

James Pace, a well-known native of Danville and banker in Richmond, donated land and nearly one hundred thousand dollars to build a new church on Franklin Street, which was renamed Park Place Methodist Episcopal Church South in 1876. Though the church was not finished until 1886, the congregation moved to the new location in 1877. Park Place was dedicated to two deceased children of James Pace. At the dedication in 1886, a new hymn titled “Come, O Thou God of Grace” was sung and is now in the Methodist Hymnal.

(Shockoe Examiner) — view of West Franklin Street, showing Park Place Methodist Church at center left

In 1921, Park Place Methodist Episcopal Church South was renamed Pace Memorial Methodist Church in memory of James Pace, who died in August of 1920. On December 11, 1966, the church, with its Gothic architecture, was destroyed by a fire that may have been a result of arson. There has been a persistent rumor that the fire was started by someone opposed to the church’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. (World Religions & Spirituality)

May 2018 — location today, showing Rhoads Hall at left

Arson? The church and the Richmond Professional Institute campus must have been quite the hotbed of radical activity in those days. A real pity whether it was planned or not, because having two steeples was pretty unique.

Nevertheless, the fire made room for the construction of Rhoads Hall. Completed in 1968, it was the first “on purpose” built dormitory for the new Virginia Commonwealth University, and dominated the north 700 block of West Franklin Street. (Urban Campus). The congregation regrouped and rebranded as Pace Memorial in 1969, using the smaller parcel of land remaining to focus on community outreach.

(Park Place Methodist Church is part of the Atlas RVA Project)


Sources

  • [RVCJ93] Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James: The Book of Its Chamber of Commerce and Principal Business Interests. G. W. Engelhardt. 1893.

 

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