Lost Memphis: Madison Heights Methodist Church — An Update



Photo from THE ART WORK OF MEMPHIS, 1912

In the January issue of Memphis magazine, I told the story of Madison Heights United Methodist Church, a fine-looking stone structure that stood for more than a century at the corner of Monroe and Claybrook. I had mentioned that the church met a sad fate: Its members had moved away (I said), the church was abandoned, and the empty building was consumed by a fire of "undetermined origin" on April 14, 1997.

That's not the whole story. A former church member, Mary Evelyn Goodwin, wrote to tell me the actual details of the church's demise. Here's what she had to say:

"Thank you for your January article regarding the Madison Heights neighborhood and the former Madison Heights United Methodist Church. My parents also married there in 1928, and I and my two sisters were raised in that church. I remained a member until the church closed in 1994.

"As you mentioned in your article, it was a very large and active church, and members gradually moved away, but the church was not abandoned. A small group of approximately 30 active and committed members remained until they realized maintaining a huge and deteriorating building was not good stewardship of time and funds. In January of 1994 in a congregational meeting, a vote was taken to close in June at the Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. The property would go to the Conference.

"In the ensuing five months the trustees began to dispose of other things. The lovely pipe organ is now in Colonial Park United Methodist Church (on Park Avenue), the grand piano is in the Wesley Foundation Building on the University of Memphis campus, and the stained-glass windows grace Crossroads United Methodist Church (on Shelby Drive).  Smaller items were distributed to other churches and ministries. Money remaining went to Reelfoot Rural Ministries, the United Methodist Neighborhood Center, and to the Conference for world ministries.

"The last service held in the church was a McKendree District Celebration on Pentecost Sunday in May. The last minister to serve Madison Heights was the late Rev. Robert Crump. The fire in 1997 destroyed the main building and the Character Builder Bible Class Building. As you stated, the Ruth Hyde Chapel building was used by the Conference and is now for sale.

"I wanted to tell you the end of the story. — Mary Evelyn Goodwin"

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Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and MBQ: Inside Memphis Business.  Vance is the author of three books: Ask Vance: The Best Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History and Trivia Expert (2003), as well as Ask Vance: More Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History Expert (2011) and Vance Lauderdale's Lost Memphis (2013). He is also the recipient of quite a few nice awards, the creator of several eye-catching wall calendars, and the only person we know with a vintage shock-treatment machine in his den. 

You can find him from time to time in the pages of the Memphis Flyer and MBQ, on WKNO television, and on Facebook. When he is not exploring the highways and byways of Memphis, he spends his time sleeping, napping, and dozing.

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