You are on page 1of 30

HERITAGE NEEDS ASSESSMENT CHURCH OF THE HOLY TRINITY, EPISCOPAL NASHVILLE, TN

Prepared by Kristen Baldwin Deathridge July 2011

A public service research project of the Center for Historic Preservation/Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area Middle Tennessee State University

1

Table of Contents A Brief History of the Church of the Holy Trinity Preservation Action Plan Progress Report Archives Status and Plan Images from the Archives History Status and Plan 3 11 17 20 23 25 28

Possible Funding Sources

Appendix A: Archival Paperwork Appendix B: Archival Database

2

A Brief History of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Episcopal:

Episcopalians of Nashville formed the Church of the Holy Trinity as a mission of

Christ Church of Nashville in 1849. At first called St. Paul’s mission, by 1852, the congregation became Holy Trinity Parish.1 The current building was begun in 1852. Designed by architects Wills and Dudley of New York, the nave and chancel were completed in 1853. The tower was not completed until 1887 and the building was consecrated in 1888.2 Located at the corner of Ewing Avenue and 6th Street and modeled after English parish churches, the gothic revival building at first served the lower- and middle-class whites of the neighborhood. The parish was organized to be a “free” church, meaning one that did not charge pew fees, in a neighborhood that, at the time, lay outside the boundaries of Nashville.3 The area was annexed to Nashville in 1854 and denomination leaders believed that it would continue to grow in population.4

Pamela E. Foster, Nashville’s Holy Trinity Episcopal Church: The Early Years, (Nashville, TN: The Church of the Holy Trinity, Episcopal , 2002), 63-64. I am currently processing the archives for Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. Most of the sources for Foster’s work are in the unprocessed archive and, as a work of popular history, she did not provide citations. As I process the archive, I can see the source material for much of the book. Early newspaper accounts add little to parish records, but future research at other Nashville Episcopal congregations and in the diocesan records could provide further insight into the motives of the diocese in making decisions that involved Holy Trinity.
1

U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Historic American Buildings Survey, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Roy C. Pledger, HABS No. TN-135. (Washington, D.C., 1970).
2 3 4

Foster, Nashville’s Holy Trinity Episcopal Church: The Early Years, 69. Ibid., 64ff. 3

The early years of the parish were marked by an inability to find a long-term

priest and a stable, rather than growing, number of communicants.5 In the late 1850s, another Episcopal congregation, the Church of the Advent, was founded nearby. The local priests supported this move, even though they calculated it would drain Holy Trinity of attendance, because it too was to be a “free” church. Some of the members did indeed move to the Church of the Advent, but Holy Trinity’s numbers remained stable, with growing Sunday school attendance.6 Priests shared duties between the two congregations as the neighborhood developed. This demonstrates the denomination’s early commitment to maintain Holy Trinity. The nearby University of Nashville (at the intersection of 3rd Avenue and Peabody Street), with its thriving teaching college that would later be incorporated into Vanderbilt University, flourished and brought new homes and residents to the neighborhood, and by 1859 Holy Trinity had increased to sixty-one communicants. Services were interrupted in 1862 by the Civil War and the occupation of

Nashville by federal troops. Quartered near Holy Trinity on the land around Mile End, a property owned by the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad company,7 the federal army used the building as both a stable and a powder magazine (and possibly as a hospital as well) and much damage was done to the interior. Despite this use, the
5 6 7

Ibid., 74. Ibid., 78-79.

Steven Hoskins, “A Restless Landscape: Building Nashville History and Seventh and Drexel,” (PhD diss., Middle Tennessee State University, 2009) 51. 4

church was open occasionally during the war, with Army chaplains using the space for services. It thus maintained its status as a part of the Episcopal Church.8 After the war, the government paid $1200 for the damages and $133 rental fee for use of the building.9 Thanks to that repayment, donations from the diocese, and the persistence of members, the interior of Holy Trinity was restored. By 1867 most of the restoration was complete, a new organ was purchased in 1872, and the tower was completed in 1887.10 In the years following the Civil War, the “sixty-six communicants, 107 Sunday school students, and fifteen Sunday school teachers” of Holy Trinity continued to be a white congregation. Episcopal leaders in Tennessee and throughout the nation discouraged the formation of a separate branch of the Episcopal church for blacks and worked to bring freed-people into the Episcopal church, if not necessarily into fully integrated congregations. 11 As early as the late 1850s, the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee began requesting

that its churches report statistics separately for blacks and whites. While Holy Trinity Parish and other major Nashville Episcopal congregations did not comply with this request, when the diocese established the first black Episcopal congregation in 1888,

8 9

Foster, Nashville’s Holy Trinity Episcopal Church: The Early Years, 82.

U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Historic American Buildings Survey, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Roy C. Pledger, HABS No. TN-135. (Washington, D.C., 1970).
10 11

Ibid. Foster, Nashville’s Holy Trinity Episcopal Church: The Early Years, 82 ff. 5

there were existing black episcopalians to attend.12 It is possible that there were no black communicants at Holy Trinity. Alternatively, there were African Americans attending the church and the priests just refused to differentiate. Unfortunately, we may never know which was the case or where the black Episcopalians were worshiping before the congregation was established in 1888. Demographic and structural changes to the neighborhood around Holy Trinity

(and Elm Street) began accelerating after the Civil War. After the occupation by the federal army, African Americans continued settling in the area and rebuilding the neighborhood, and the city created new streets and widened existing ones throughout the 1870s and 1880s.13 Additionally, the area grew in its commercial focus as “boosterism” in the city worked to bring Nashville some “New South” status.14 This desire to remake Nashville with some of the trappings of Northern industrial cities influenced the changes in street infrastructure in this South Nashville neighborhood and contributed to the increase in light industry and the construction of warehouses along the railroad.15 The neighborhood’s demographics changed even further as some residents who left the area when the U. S. Army began occupation during the war never

12 13 14 15

Ibid., 76-77. Ibid., 91. Hoskins, “A Restless Landscape,” 53. Ibid., 59. 6

return while others left the neighborhood for the suburbs as commercial interests moved in.16 By the time the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament announced the establishment of

a Roman Catholic parochial school for African American girls two blocks west of Holy Trinity in 1905, they were able to argue that the location of the school among existing black homes was ideal.17 The school continued in the neighborhood until the 1950s when it was closed in favor of integration.18 By the late 1880s, the priests at Holy Trinity served an integrated congregation, but in the 1890s they separated, as the blacks worshiped at the Holy Trinity mission church of St. Paul’s (later renamed All Saints).19 Both congregations were served by the same priests.20 At the 1905 Diocesan Convention, some proposed that Holy Trinity be sold as its numbers of white congregants had declined and the African American members could have the less impressive All Saints property. Showing continued denominational support for the building and congregation, Nashville Bishop Thomas Frank Gailor worked from that point on to have Holy Trinity instead transferred to its black members. 21 Nationally, the Episcopal church remained convinced that blacks and whites needed to stay in the same
16 17 18 19 20 21

Ibid., 60. Ibid., 75, 82. Ibid., 95. Foster, Nashville’s Holy Trinity Episcopal Church: The Early Years, 109ff. Ibid., 124. Ibid., 130. 7

denomination. However, all Episcopalians still did not want integrated services. In November 1907, Holy Trinity was officially given to its African American communicants, those members at All Saints joined Holy Trinity, and All Saints was dissolved. The church was also reduced to mission status with the understanding that the new congregation would not be able to meet the financial obligations of a parish.22 Information on the congregation worshiping at the Church of the Holy Trinity

between 1907 and the 1950s remains slim, as do any details of the congregation before 1907. Nashville preservationist Fletch Coke reports that at some time around the transfer of Holy Trinity in 1907, the Senior Warden took the Vestry Committee (oversees the business of running the church and caring for the property) Minutes and church registry, which would have contained records of baptisms, confirmations, and marriages, home for safe keeping, but that no one has seen them since. The archive at Holy Trinity does contain the church registries, sunday service records, and some Bishop’s Committee (forerunner to the Vestry) Minutes for the years from 1928-1948. These records relay that the congregation remained small but active through lists of attendance, baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and offerings. Few details may be gleaned from these records. Local and diocesan archival searches also uncover little

22

Ibid., 135. 8

information from this period and the time is outside of the recollection of current church members.23 Reverend A.J. Coombs served as the first African American priest-in-charge at

the Church of Holy Trinity from 1907 through 1925. Three other priests served between 1925 and 1928 when Reverend A. Myron Cochran came. He stayed at Holy Trinity through the late 1930s and not only kept diligent records of the type discussed above but he attempted to gather information about church members prior to his arrival and include it in his records as well. Reverend Charles M. Johnson and Reverend George E. Harper served the congregation during the 1940s and early 1950s. In 1961, Holy Trinity again gained parish status and Reverend James E. Williams

was the priest-in-charge at this time. In the turbulent 1950s and 1960s, many members of the congregation at Holy Trinity participated in Nashville’s Civil Rights Movement. Unfortunately, less of this period of Holy Trinity’s history is immediately verifiable, and is an area of current research. Rallies and educational sessions were held at Holy Trinity. Several of its members taught at Nashville universities and one of the best known members was Nashville councilman, Fisk University educator, and lawyer Z. Alexander Looby. Looby defended the students arrested in the Nashville sit-ins and his North Nashville home was bombed as a result. This led to an impromptu march to the capitol by North Nashvillians in which Diane Nash asked Mayor Ben West if he

I have checked with the Nashville Room, TSLA, Metro Archives, Metro Historical Commission, and Sewanee, in addition to speaking with Fletch Coke and Holy Trinity churchmembers.
23

9

“recommend[s] that the lunch counters be desegregated.” Put on the spot, West answered in the affirmative and three weeks later, Nashville lunch counters began serving blacks.24 Looby lived in North Nashville, but attended church at Holy Trinity in South

Nashville. Members came from around town and no longer just from the neighborhood around the building, and so, despite the changing demographics, Holy Trinity continued to thrive through the 1970s. Through the 1980s and 1990s, the congregation held steady and then began declining in size. This is consistent with the general decline nationwide in members for mainline denominations after about 1965. The current congregation at Holy Trinity is smaller but remains largely African

American. The past two priests-in-charge have been white men from outside of the South and the homeless population in the area has grown due to the location of the Nashville Union Mission on the land formerly used by the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for their school. The parish does significant outreach to the homeless, even holding services in Spanish for the newcomers to the neighborhood. Through the changing demographics of the neighborhood, Holy Trinity’s congregation also changed and remained committed to reaching the poor.

John Lewis and Michael D’Orso, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1998), 110-111.
24

10

Preservation Action Plan Progress Report In January 2010, Father Bill Dennler received a preservation action plan for the main building of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church from Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area preservation specialist Michael Gavin. This report provides an update on the progress made at Holy Trinity since that time and highlights a new priority list for care of this historic church.

1. Almost immediately after receiving the previous action plan, the birds and bird waste were removed from the tower of the church and the roof was resealed to prevent birds from nesting in the tower. Now that this health risk has been eliminated, work is currently being done to reinforce and replace the roof, flooring, and decaying stonework in the tower and turret as needed. This work should be completed in early 2011.

Fig. 1. Resealed roof prevents birds from nesting in the tower and turret. They have been cleaned and most of the stonework repaired.25

25

unless otherwise noted, all images taken by Kristen Baldwin Deathridge 11

2. As one of the most important parts of any building, the foundation needs to be protected from moisture. Therefore the next priority is the replacement of the gutter system, which includes gutters, downspouts, and leaders. New leaders should guide water away from the foundation. Ideally, these leaders would be placed underground to preserve the historic character and usability of the churchyard. In order to be both historically appropriate and to handle the amount of water that the steeply pitched roof will shed during the rain, half-round gutters of galvanized steel will need to be custom-made for the building. These can be done in any color that is mindful of the historic character of the church.

Figs. 2 & 3. The current gutter system is insufficient for the quantity of water which runs off the roof of the church and it leaves the water too close to the foundation of the building.

12

3. Several sections of the exterior stonework need to be repointed because cracked and decaying mortar allows water to seep into the foundation, creating mold and decay. Repointing should be done in sections, beginning with the areas closest to the ground. This will also prevent further water damage to the foundation of the building. Workers should remove some of the soil next to the building, again in sections, so as not to destabilize exterior walls, and be certain that as many gaps are filled as is possible. Then, topsoil should be brought in to slope the ground away from the church to at 1:12 pitch. This will naturally encourage water to flow away from the foundation and help to keep it dry. This is particularly important on the west side of the building, where the ground level is lower than that on the east side.

Fig. 4. Detail of west side wall, where repointing needs to fill gaps between stones and topsoil should be added to encourage water to flow away from the building.
13

4. Some successful repointing of the building has already taken place. Once the foundation of the building is secure, the remaining repointing can be done, taking care to fill the gaps and repair the decaying sections to keep water out of the building. This can be done all at once or in sections, whichever is financially convenient for the congregation.

Fig. 5 (left image) is of the east side of the building and shows the higher soil grade there as well as the worn and improper pointing between the stones of the wall. Fig. 6 (right image) shows some of the repointing work that has been completed. Repointing of the rest of the building should match this work.

5. The roof of the building is also nearing the time for replacement. The roof is not currently leaking, but since it was put in place in the 1970s, it will need to be addressed soon. Care should be taken to examine the rafters and substrate, which, in combination with historic photos, should enable historic preservation experts to determine the material of the original roof covering. If possible, the appearance of this

14

original roof covering should be replicated in any replacement material. Care should be taken to ensure proper flashing and that all chimneys and flues have metal caps, drip edges, and bird screens to direct water away from the roof and to keep animals out of the building.

6. Perhaps the most expensive step to restore Holy Trinity Episcopal Church involves replacing the plaster inside the sanctuary. The current plaster is bowed, cracked, peeling, and molding in places. Several large cracks formed while the contractor was doing the blasting required to build the Music City Center. Negotiations are ongoing with the contractor and the city to get reimbursement for these damages. The interior wall and plaster work needs to be restored in order to provide a safe experience for visitors and to maintain the historic character of the church.

Figs. 7 & 8 show the interior plaster work which needs to be restored. These images also show the red cedar ceiling.
15

7. As a final step to restoring the historic interior of the church, the red cedar ceiling inside the sanctuary needs to be cleaned. The wood has turned dark from nicotine and soot accumulation. Christ Church Episcopal in Nashville did a similar cleaning of their ceiling in recent years and it can be done by experts with a mixture of Murphy’s Oil Soap and water.

Fig. 9 (left). Interior of the Church of the Holy Trinity, facing the altar. Fig. 10 (right). Detail of red cedar ceiling cleaned with Murphyʼs Oil Soap and water shows that the interior was not intended to be as dark.

16

Archives Status and Plan

Through funding from the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area, the archival materials belonging to the Church of the Holy Trinity have been properly stored and entered into a database and finding aid. Most of the items in the collection are paper and have been stored, by topic or collection, in acid-free folders placed inside archival quality metal edge boxes. Several books are stored in individual boxes. There is one photo album and one small box holds photo prints separated by acid-free paper.

It is recommended that the photo album and the loose photos in the box be disassembled and digitized. Many have information written on the back of them. Unfortunately the time that digitization would require made it outside the scope of this project. In the future, the photos should all be scanned at high resolution, including the reverse side for those which have information printed on them. When the scans are saved, each file should be named to ensure that the scans of the back of the images remain associated with the correct images. Ideally, these would be entered into an archival database, but if that is not possible, storage on dvds and at least one computer would work as a minimum. When the photo album is taken apart, the photos should be stored with acid-free paper between them or in individual labelled envelopes, if finances permit.

17

Items that were stored or came in together were kept together as collections. For example, there was a file box full of items gathered concerning the 2002 sesquicentennial of the Church of the Holy Trinity. These items were organized and stored in acid-free folders and placed in storage boxes together rather than being redistributed in the collection. As individuals have brought in items that they want to donate to the archives, the same process has been followed and the donor’s name is included on each folder of material that he or she donated to the archive. Folders are labeled on the top left with the shorthand for the items within and on the top right with their location, which indicates the box in which the folder is stored. For example, the folder containing items from the 1995 Vestry committee could be labeled: “Vestry, 1995 ---- 2-4.” The folder being the forth stored in Box 2. Boxes are labeled by number. Below the number is listed the folders included and, in some cases, the folder descriptions. For example: “Box 2 / Folders 2-1 to 2-9 / Vestry, 1990 to Vestry, 1999.”

Individuals continue to bring items in for the archive and there is no more available space in the archival quality metal edge boxes. Members of Holy Trinity will need to purchase more boxes to properly store the donated items. Several acid-free folders remain and will be available for use in the archive. A list of items purchased for the archive is in an appendix.

18

Currently, the archival storage boxes are stacked on a table. Father Dennler is in the process of acquiring shelving for the collections in the archive of the Church of the Holy Trinity.

19

Images from the Archives

Fig. 11. Cover of invitation to sesquicentennial celebration

Fig. 12. Church of the Holy Trinity, Jack E. Boucher for HABS 1970
20

Fig. 13. Measured drawing of the east side of the Church of the Holy Trinity done for the 1970 HABS project, one of several such drawings in the archive.

Fig. 14. Correspondence of Rev. James E. Williams as it is being entered into the database and stored in the archive.

21

Fig. 15. Wrapping a church record book with cloth. Books were also wrapped in acid-free tissue paper before being placed in archival storage boxes.

Fig. 16 (left). Entering a folder into the database before placing it in a storage box. Fig. 17 (right). Standing with a large portion of the current Church of the Holy Trinity Archive.

22

History Status and Plan

A brief history of the Church of the Holy Trinity has been modified from the one at the beginning of this report for placement on the congregation’s website. From this point, there are several actions that Father Dennler and the people of Holy Trinity can take.

Oral History: Many members of the Church of the Holy Trinity have been active in the congregation for several years and their knowledge of the church’s history is invaluable. As we can see with the lack of information from certain periods of Holy Trinity’s history, it is common for records to be lost over time. Now the memories and events of the last few decades seem fresh, but in several years they could be lost.

Professionals or students could come conduct formal oral histories, recording several hours of the life stories of some of the church’s members. This would involve quite a time and financial commitment, and, although grants may be available for such oral histories, perhaps another option would be more useful for the congregation at Holy Trinity today. Members could write brief informational statements that could be placed on the Church of the Holy Trinity’s website as congregant profiles. Members who wish to do so can share their reminisces of their involvement in the freedom struggles of the 1960s, of their actions in the wider Nashville community, or of anything else they deem

23

significant in relation to the history of Holy Trinity and its congregation. This would be a relatively easy and low cost way to gather the history of the church. Someone would need to edit these for placement on the website and may need to ask some follow-up questions of the contributing members. Church members could feel pride at sharing their contributions to local history online and the short memoirs would be a nice resource for anyone interested in Nashville history.

Publication: The Historical Committee of the Church of the Holy Trinity published the first volume of the congregation’s history in 2002 to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the congregation. Some research has been gathered to write the second volume of history and this could be taken up by current church members or perhaps someone outside the church contracted to write this history. It would also make a nice thesis or dissertation project for a history graduate student from one of Middle Tennessee’s universities.

Fund Raising: Excerpts from any of these historical products can be used on posters, pamphlets, cards, or advertisements raising funds for the specific restoration projects listed in the Preservation Action Plan.

24

Possible Funding Sources

There are several sources of potential funding and assistance to accomplish the items listed in the Preservation Action Plan. The Church of the Holy Trinity can apply to the Episcopal diocese, both at the local and national level. However, the diocese, like other charitable organizations has seen a decline in donations in the past few years and they cannot be counted on to fully fund the restoration of the Church of the Holy Trinity.

Training for religious groups looking to care for and raise funds for their historic buildings can pay for training from Partners for Sacred Places. While the Church of the Holy Trinity is already doing many of the things that Partners for Sacred Places helps congregations to do, they have many resources online at www.sacredplaces.org that could be useful. Middle Tennessee students, both those in the Public History program at Middle Tennessee State University and those in other area programs, can continue to help the Church of the Holy Trinity reach its goals by doing history work, such as conducting oral history interviews, or writing grants that will fund the restoration and preservation of the church building.

In this economic climate, several funding sources will need to be sought out. It is possible that the Tennessee State Historic Preservation Officer could help to locate some local funding. At the national level, some resources are available from the National
25

Trust for Historic Preservation at www.preservationnation.org/resources/findfunding/nonprofit-public-funding.html. If there is a need or desire to borrow funds for restoration projects, the National Trust Loan Fund exists for that purpose and information on this fund can be found at the above webpage of the National Trust. There are two granting funds that could help at the Church of the Holy Trinity. The Johanna Favrot Fund for Historic Preservation grants amounts ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 for “projects that contribute to the preservation or the recapture of an authentic sense of place.” The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Fund for Historic Interiors provides grant amounts in the same range that could assist Holy Trinity with repairing the plaster in the interior of the building and/or with restoring the red cedar ceiling in the sanctuary. Funding for the National Park Service administrated Save America’s Treasures program remains in jeopardy in the federal budget, but as a nationally significant property listed on the National Register of Historic Places and having a vibrant history from the Civil War through the Civil Rights era and beyond, the Church of the Holy Trinity could be eligible for a grant from this program. Program information and applications can be found at http://www.nps.gov/hps/treasures/index.htm.

Father Dennler has designed two different note cards which are being sold to support the ongoing restoration work at the Church of the Holy Trinity. This project has been popular and should continue.

26

Figs. 11 & 12. Icon cards designed by Father Dennler to support restoration efforts of the congregation

The Vestry committee has also discussed options for hosting benefit concerts for specific projects. Around the sesquicentennial a successful concert was performed by churchmember Emmylou Harris. In order to maximize profits, there are several logistical items that need to be addressed, but with solid partnership to provide more space for concert patrons this is also a nice potential revenue stream for restoration efforts. The continued creativity of Father Dennler and the congregation of Holy Trinity proves an excellent asset.

27

Appendix A: Archival Paperwork Category List and Justifications Holy Trinity Episcopal Church Archival Database Kristen Baldwin Deathridge Fall 2010 Item: shorthand/nickname for item Location: Box Number, Folder Number Item Type: Standard Nomenclature by category (General, Specific) Item Subtype: Date: Date item was created Description: Information about the Item and what it might include People Mentioned: names of people mentioned or pictured on/in item Further Details: Material: what the item is made out of, so far as can be determined Dimensions: size of item Publication Information: publishing company, location of publication, and date of publication, if applicable Ownership: information on who owns the item/holds copyright Donor Information: information on who donated the item to Holy Trinity Episcopal, if applicable Digital Copy Available: has the item been digitally photographed, scanned, or stored, yes or no Digital Location: location and type of digital copy (ex: HTE computer, photo) Storage: where the item is stored Catalog Date: date that item was cataloged, listed year-month-day Cataloged By: name of the person who created the catalog record Entry Modified: date and name of person who modified catalog entry

28

Record of Item Access: Holy Trinity Episcopal Church Archive Borrower Phone Date/Time Date/Time Out In

Item

Location

Borrower

29

Items Purchased for the Archive: Hollinger Metal Edge -- http://www.hollingermetaledge.com/ Items listed by SKU number, title, dimensions: 10360AB     Legal Doc Case 15 1/4 x 10 1/4 x 5 10370AB     Letter Doc Case 12 1/4 x 10 1/4 x 5 10410AB     Clamshell Box, L.G. Archives Board   15 10420AB     Clamshell Box, L.G. Archives Board   12       911LF       Lt. Tan Letter Size File Folder 914LF Lt. Tan Legal Size File Folder DFPN643    Drop Front Print/Negative Box  Tan Board 10778 Unbuffered Tissue Roll 36" x 250'

30