by Michael R. Allen
The church in 1972. (Source: Heritage/St. Louis Collection, Landmarks Association of St. Louis)
LOCATION: 460 N. Spring Avenue; Midtown; Saint Louis, Missouri
DATE OF CONSTRUCTION: 1884
OWNER: Grand Center, Inc.
A bolt of lightning struck the National Memorial Church of God in Christ in March 2001, and the church burned. The church building was built in 1884 by the Garrison Avenue Baptist Church, which reconstituted itself here as the Delmar Baptist Church. The congregation followed its upper-middle-class and wealthy members by moving to Delmar and Pendleton avenues in 1892. A Swedenborgian congregation, the Church of the New Jerusalem, was the next occupant. In the 1950s, the Pentecostal, African-American National Memorial Church of God in Christ purchased the building and began services.
After the fire, the church shell sat in Midtown containing the charred debris of the church roof, pews and altar. Eventually, Grand Center, Incorporated bought the building for conversion to an urban sculpture garden. In late 2003, construction crews removed the debris and began renovation. Yet after initially filling the basement with gravel in spring 2004, the crews stopped work.