In 1904 Cherokee Park Church (possibly also known as Cherokee Park Christian Church) began meeting in West Nashville, TN.* West Nashville was a burgeoning suburb, three miles west of the downtown courthouse, soon to be annexed into Nashville. The earliest listings of it in the Nashville and West Nashville City Directories have the Cherokee Park Church at the corner of California Avenue and 21st Avenue….specifically, the south side of California, two doors east of 21st. In 1905 the congregation met Sundays for Bible Study at 3:30 pm and heard preaching in the evenings at 7:15 pm. By the next year Sunday assemblies included Bible Study at 10:00 am with preaching at 11:00 am and again at 7:30 pm. The 1907 City Directory clarifies the address as 2013 California Avenue and indicates the congregation has “no regular pastor.” By 1909 (I haven’t double-checked this yet…maybe this is when West Nashville was annexed) it appears that the street numbers in West Nashville were changed to harmonize with those in town. There was already a 21st Avenue in Nashville, so in the 1909 directory the address is 6113 California Avenue. I suspect it is the same location as 2013 California Avenue (2013 would be in the 2000-2100 block, with 21st renamed to 61st Avenue). This manner of listing in the directories obtains through 1924. I do not have the 1925 entries at hand, but the 1926 City Directory knows nothing of the Cherokee Park Church of Christ. Rather, the West Nashville Church of Christ is listed as meeting at 6113 California Avenue and so appears until 1930 (by 1926 West Nashville Christian Church changed its name to Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ). I know…keep your eye on the ball…the game changes quickly. In 1931 we find neither Cherokee Park nor West Nashville Churches of Christ. We do, however, note the first appearance of the Pennsylvania Avenue Church of Christ, meeting at 5411 Pennsylvania Avenue (in west Nashville just a few blocks from 6113 California Ave.).
In 1934 Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ published a directory in which they included a brief historical sketch, noting
approximately thirty-five years ago the Charlotte Avenue congregation started a mission in a building owned by Brother W. M. Latta on California Avenue. In 1903 a meeting house was erected on California Avenue near the corner of Sixty-first Avenue. The Charlotte Avenue congregation conducted a mission in this building for several years. Later it became an independent congregation known as the California Avenue Church of Christ. During the year 1928, the members of this congregation, feeling that they could do better work as members of Charlotte Avenue congregation, deed this property to the trustees of the Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ. The property was sold and a lot purchased at a more desirable location on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Fifty-fifth Avenue, upon which the Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ erected a brick structure. This property is owned by the Charlotte Avenue Church. The work is under the supervision of the elders of the Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ, and those worshipping there are regarded as a part of the Charlotte Avenue congregation.
I have more leads to pursue, but it appears that by 1903-1904 (or as early as the 1898-1901 window according to the directory quoted above) Cherokee Park is an intentional plant from the West Nashville Christian Church (later known as Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ). West Nashville Christian Church members met at 11:00 am and 7:15 pm. Several likely also assembled fifteen blocks east, on California Avenue, at 3:30 pm to assist in the new church plant. A year or two later the young congregation is up on its feet and meeting in the morning and likely carrying on as its own. I will not be surprised to learn of leadership ordinations in the 1905-1906 window. A similar plant nearer to North Nashville in the same time frame (1900 to 1910) followed the same practice: meeting at 3:00-3:30 in the afternoon for the first year or two, then moving to morning and evening services. Were there two plants from West Nashville Christian Church? Were the same principals involved in both? Coincidence? All of the above? None of the above?
Again, I have more leads to check, but Charlotte Avenue supports with finances and personnel the Pennsylvania Avenue ‘mission’ in the late 1920’s through at least 1934. I don’t know what happens after 1934. In the 1934 Charlotte Avenue Church Directory 117 members are listed separately who “meet at Pennsylvania Avenue.” In 1934 Charlotte Avenue has 753 members; plus 117 at Pennsylvania Avenue equalas an aggregate membership of 870.
When Pennsylvania Avenue Church of Christ closed in 2000 or 2001 the members turned over the property to the elders of Charlotte Avenue Church. Last I drove by (about two years ago) the brick ‘meeting house’ built in the late 1920’s by Charlotte Avenue housed a Spanish-speaking Pentecostal congregation.
Should anyone have records or documents from Cherokee Park Church of Christ (other variations may include Cherokee Park Christian Church, California Avenue Church of Christ and/or California Avenue Christian Church) or Pennsylvania Avenue Church of Christ, please contact me. I would like to fill in the gaps and learn more. Bulletins, directories, printed materials of any kind, photographs of any kind, meeting minutes or church roll books, recordings of sermons, anything, will enable at least a basic congregational history to be assembled. It has been almost dozen years since Pennsylvania Avenue Church closed; if records survived, they may yet be saved. But if living memories are not captured now, we may never get them. If you know of anyone who worshipped at Pennsylvania Avenue, please contact me as I would like to talk history with them. Who preached at Pennsylvania Avenue? Who were the leaders? Who got things done and what did they do? What was the shape of ministry there? Who grew up there? Who has memory of this congregation? Email me at icekm [at] aol [dot] com.
*John Zuccarello provided invaluable information and leads for this brief historical sketch. Thank you, John!