Broadway Baptist Church – The Church Journey


August 27, 2020

I had the privilege to visit Broadway Baptist Church with many blessing dating back to 1885. Looking back on the growth of the Broadway Baptist Church the development of organizations becomes not an isolated path of progress, but one which has been shared by other churches, other people by city, state, and country. O.L Hailey, founder and organizer of Broadway Baptist. Hailey reported back in 1885 we were in the midst of a new world. Grover Cleveland was elected that fall for the first time to be president of the United States. U.S Grant dies that year on July 23. The telephone was just coming into general use. The year before, the first successful electric railway with overhead trolley was built in the city of Richmond Virginia. [1]

The Washington Monument, Washington D.C was just opened to the public that summer. D.L. Moody and Ira D. Sankey were reaching their world fame.  Susan B Anthony was just planting her feet on rising ground that led in the subsequent years to women’s emancipation. Theodore Roosevelt was quitting the plains of the west and coming back east to begin his career which led him to the White House, and Booker T. Washington was just gathering his institute at Tuskegee, Alabama. [1]

Knoxville at the time did not have more than 20,000 people. There were only a few electric lights and possibly a few telephones in the city. The street cars were drawn by small mules and stopped anywhere on the street that a prospective passenger raised his finger. There was no smooth hard surfaced street, but there were some macadamized streets. He reported he never owned a horse and did all his pastoral visiting on foot.  [1]

At the time there was only one the First Baptist Church on Gay street it had approximately 400 members. Broadway Baptist church was a direct successor of the work, which was begun as a Sunday School at Broad and depot streets in 1881. It was a small beginning but W.W. Woodruff the first Baptist deacon, with the vision of the future ahead, bought a lot for $1,000. Meanwhile friends have built a chapel on the lot. They called it North Knoxville Mission Sunday School. They met in the building for the first time February 1882 and had 16 people present. By 1885 they had grown to 125 in attendance. In 1888 they purchased the current lot in use today for $3,500. On August 14 1889 they broke dirt for a new building. [1] 

The Growth of the church demanded a new building and on December 18, 1927, $100,000 had been subscribed for this purpose. On July 19, 1928 J.B Williams, oldest and only original living trustee of the church, spaded the first shovel of dirt. About six months later Broadway was in its new home. [1]

05 May 1929 The Knoxville News Sentinel presented a picture of the new church building. In 1929 It was reported that this is one of the most complete church plants in the state.  It was one of the first churches to provide income producing sections. On the ground floor had six beautiful store buildings, which will be rented. The entire building will take care of Sunday School of 2,500 and has 100 daylight rooms. A young people assembly room for over 400 young people’s department of Sunday School and also provides a stage and settings for pageants and other educational attractions which the church may wish to offer.  The old building was remodeled and fits into the new building.  [1]

The former 1500-seat sanctuary and the rest of the church plant were destroyed in a fire set by arsonists on Christmas Eve 1965. The fire was discovered by two policemen driving by the church. Newsmen at the scene said flames leaped over 100 feet into the air. At the time of the fire the church had one of the largest congregations in the city. It was reported by one church member, “we’ve lost a church building, but not a church” [2]

The new $820,000 church was built with an open contemporary 1400-seat sanctuary and was dedicated on Easter Sunday 1968. The organ is installed across the front. The new facilities hosted the 94th annual session of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. [2]


Doing research, I found several newspaper articles that provided the history and major events for the church. It was a hot sunny day as I walked around the church grounds taking pictures. The present church was built in 1965 and is constructed of solid red bricks accented with a tall steeple with the engraving “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28. I finished my visit by spending time in prayer for the church and congregation.


After the church burned on Christmas Eve of 1965 it was quoted “WE’VE LOST A CHURCH BUILDING, BUT NOT A CHURCH”.  Most churches with a long history have transitioned through multiple buildings over the years. This serves as a reminded that buildings can change, but it’s the people that make up the church through the body of Christ.  I am thankful for the many people who have dedicated their self by providing their time as well as tithes and offerings to build and support the church. More important God owns the church, God orchestrates it, everything we have is provided by God. The people are just the stewards to what God has provided. We are blessed to be in trusted with the management of what is God’s. Through this relationship it allows the church to act as a conduit to reach out to the unsaved.


With the National emergency for the COVID-19 virus many churches are remaining closed during the week only providing limited capacity openings on Sundays.  At the time of my visit the church was closed, so I spent time outside the church in meditation and prayer.


Church Website:


Date Visited: 2020 July 22. 

Location: 815 N Broadway St.  Knoxville, TN 

If you would like to learn more about this church, upcoming events, or listen to a sermon I encourage you to visit the church website listed above.

May our Lord continue to bless this church in Jesus name.

“The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” – (Psalm 24-1)

Please Pray for all our churches as they continue to face challenges in the year 2020.

May this find you well and happy, God Bless.

PICTURE GALLERY: Inside pictures provided by the church website.



    1., “Broadway Baptist To celebrate New Era” (1929 May 05 Page 45- 46) The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Knoxville Tn.
    2., “$500,000 Church fire Laid to Arson” (1965 December 25 Page 1, 3) The Tennessean, Nashville Tn.

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