AKA, Trinity United Methodist Church, Old Trinity Methodist, New Light Baptist Church
2000 East Broad Street
Built 1859, 1975
Architect, Albert L. West
Trinity Methodist Church is a substantial Italianate brick building conspicuously located on the west slope of Church Hill on Richmond’s Broad Street. The building was constructed between 1859 and 1875. Although the building has suffered the loss of its distinctive, very tall spire, and has undergone various minor alterations, it maintains its integrity as an architectural landmark.
Recognizing the value of the Christian spire in defining neighborhoods and vistas, architect West designed the building so that the spire would dominate Broad Street on the east-west axis; it is also directly on axis with Hull Street across the James River.
The composition of the building was derived through Georgian prototypes, ultimately from Wren’s London city churches. The tall spire and staged tower, and the landmark siting, owe something to John Nash’s 1822-1824 All Souls’ Church, Langham Place, London. The details of the building, including the simulated quoins, the heavy bracketed cornice, and the semicircular windows and fanlights, reflect the prevalent Italianate taste of the 1850s.
The Broad Street Methodist Church, also designed by West, was of comparable quality with a similar composition and detailing. For many years the spires of the Broad Street, and Trinity churches dominated Broad Street from opposite hillsides above Shockoe Valley. The destruction of the Broad Street Methodist Church renders Trinity Methodist Church all the more important.
Richmond’s “First Church” Methodist congregation was organized in 1799. The congregation adopted the name Trinity by 1812. In 1827-1828 Trinity congregation constructed a church building on Franklin Street next to the Exchange Hotel. This building was destroyed by fire in 1836 and quickly rebuilt, on the same location.
In 1859 it was determined to sell the old church building, and to relocate the congregation in a new building near the Church Hill residential neighborhood. A substantial segment of the congregation, however, separated from Trinity and planned another church building at Broad and Tenth streets. Architect Albert L. West, a member of Trinity, prepared plans for both new churches. The dissenting congregation built the Broad Street Methodist Church in 1859-1861.
Construction of the new Trinity Church at 20th and Broad Streets began in 1859. On 3 February, 1860 the building’s ground floor “school auditorium” was dedicated. The congregation met in this auditorium pending the completion of the remainder of the church. Completion was delayed by war, and the main auditorium was not finished until November, 1866. The cost of the construction was estimated at $35,000. The spire was not erected until 1875.
Trinity congregation relocated to a new building in the west end of Richmond, at Forest Avenue and Stuart Hall Road, in 1945. The old church was sold in 1947 to the New Light Baptist congregation, which has occupied it since that time. The 225-foot spire was damaged by Hurricane Hazel in 1954, and the remaining fragments were dismantled in 1955. Plans are under way to restore the building to its historic appearance, including reconstruction of the spire. (VDHR)
The above was written in 1986, when the church was added to the Richmond Historic Registry, but thirty years later, there is still no steeple.
Architecture Richmond also has a write-up on Trinity Methodist, which is worth checking out.
(Trinity Methodist Church (2nd Building) is part of the Atlas RVA Project)
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