St. Johns Methodist, East St. Stephens Missionary Baptist, Celebration Hall

181 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd.

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According to Creative Loafing, the co-owner has said that the whole building will not be demolished, but the damaged tower will be demolished and replaced.  The full Creative Loafing article can be found here.

 

A call to action by Atlanta architect and preservationist Kyle Kessler after news broke that the building would be demolished.

 

"Yesterday evening I read this article about the city condemning the church building at the northwest corner of Ralph David Abernathy and Central Avenue. I have seen this building for years - primarily from the interstate or on my way to/from Turner Field. I had read about the tragic accident last fall, but until yesterday, I did not realize it had done such damage to the building.

So, in hopes that it's not too late, I've quickly done some research to learn more about the building. Hopefully by sharing this information, we - as a community - can try to prevent this building from being razed if there's any possibility that it can still be stabilized. With the Braves departing Turner Field, it is time to start planning how this area of our city that's been used primarily for game-day parking can once again become a real neighborhood. And neighborhoods are more successful when there are buildings of various ages. So let's help make sure this building remains a vital addition to this community for the next hundred years and beyond.

Thanks,

Kyle Kessler"

The building was designed by local architecture firm Bruce & Everett. Alexander C. Bruce and Alexander F. N. Everett designed many churches throughout the southeast, including First Congregational Church here in Atlanta. (Unfortunately, much of Everett's Craigie House/DAR building was recently destroyed by our winter weather.)

St. John's Methodist Church was formed in 1890 by the combining of the Ira Street mission and the Capitol Avenue mission. It's reported that the church started in a boxcar, later built a small building, and eventually rolled that building (on wheels, of course) to the corner of Georgia and Pryor while the congregation was worshiping inside! The building wasn't dedicated until 1898.

Because their building had gotten too small for the congregation and its Sunday school, funds were raised in 1907 to build a larger building on the adjacent lot. The auditorium was designed to seat 1,000 people and the Sundayschool classrooms could hold 600-800 people. The building permit was issued in September 1907 and work began on the foundation. Following the Panic of 1907, further construction was halted and did not resume until the spring of 1909. At that time, the old church was torn down and services were held in a tent. The cornerstone was laid on October 10, 1909 after which services were held in the basement. In 1910, the Sunday school rooms were completed where the congregation worshiped until 1912 when the remainder of building was completed. The debt on the building was paid off in May 1920, and the church was formally dedicated in September 1920.

St. Stephens Missionary Baptist Church moved into the building in July 1958. Rev. M.L. King, Sr. preached the first evening service. The building suffered in disrepair and vandalism so that congregation eventually moved to East Point in 1989. A November 1992 AJC article says the church tried to sell the property for parking for the Olympics, Braves games, and the Georgia Dome. A November 1995 AJC article stated the building was being marketed for corporate use during the Olympics. A May 1996 AJC article stated plans to use the building as a tailgating club were in jeopardy because the Braves did not want AFCRA to lease adjacent parking to the building because the club's buffet and bar would compete with concession sales at the stadium. In 2002, a City ordinance was approved to allow the church to use the building's parking as park-for-hire. In 2008, St Stephens sold the property. In recent years the building's been renovated and used as an events facility known as Celebration Hall (or just "The Hall"), Legends Banquet & Events Center, and Museum Bar. 

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References:

"The Building Given to God." Atlanta Constitution, April 4, 1898, p8. 

"St. John's Church Raises Big Fund." Atlanta Georgian & News, March 11, 1907, p7. 

"New St. John's Methodist Church." Atlanta Constitution, June 2, 1907, B5.

"Permit for Church." Atlanta Georgian & News, September 12, 1907, p11.

"At Work on Church - old St. Johns Torn Down For New One." Atlanta Georgian & News, April 29, 1909. 

"Cornerstone of Church Will Be Laid Today." Atlanta Constitution, October 21, 1909, p6. 

"St. John's Church Cornerstone Laid With Impressive Exercises." Atlanta Constitution, October 22, 1909, p9. 

"St. John. M. E. Church Now Free From Debt." Atlanta Constitution, May 25, 1920, p5. 

"Dedication Service for St. John's Church." Atlanta Constitution, September 5, 1920, p7. 

"St. Stephens To Worship At New Location Sunday; High Day Anticipated." Atlanta Daily World, July 12, 1958, p2. 

"To fight or surrender 'mighty fortress'?" Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 28, 1992, B1. 

"Corporate lease will mean new life for empty church." Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 24, 2995, D04. 

"Plans May Be Parked." Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 10, 1996, G06.

Listed in 2014

Address: 181 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. Atlanta, GA
Area of City: Mechanicsville
Time: 1910-12
Architect/Designer: Bruce & Everett