History of burned Highland Baptist Church

CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee (WDEF)- Curator of Collections, Lindsay Stuber, with the Chattanooga Historical Society says the start of the church dates back to the 1890s.

 “Highland Baptist Church actually started out as Orchard knob Baptist Church back in the 1890s. It’s not until the 1920s that they built the church that unfortunately was affected by the fire,” said Stuber.

She says the church grew and expanded in the 1940s due to former pastor Dr. Lee Roberson’s sermons and popularity.

“He’s thought of being one of the first televangelists because he’s creating this new preaching style. Because of his popularity, they end up building a larger auditorium facility,” said Stuber.

The Chauncey-Goode Auditorium sustained massive damage and it also damages part of the city’s history.

“This church was influential in terms of the church community. Roberson was a large figure creating Tennessee Temple University,” said Stuber.

Stand up: passersby can see the heavy damage done to the church, particularly from the back as it looks almost completely demolished on the way down. If you look a little further up, you can see there’s not a lot of visible damage to the clock tower.

An iconic part of the church. So, the hope is there will be some kind of preservation there to help preserve.  To help keep that legacy physically there.

 She says, there might be a connection between the Church and Dr. Martin Luther King.

 “He preached at Memorial Auditorium.  Gave a rousing important speech in the civil rights movement. From what I can tell, it was likely a meeting between himself and Dr. Roberson in his office but I have not been able to really find much on it,” said Stuber.
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