Designed by Nashville architect Robert Sharp, the Lindsley Avenue church is made of red brick and terra cotta in the Romanesque revival style with gothic influences. Sharp would design several landmark Nashville buildings, including Hume-Fogg High School (1912) which is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Construction began in 1894 and was completed in 1895. The church has many stained glass windows, some of which appear to have come from an older building. One major window has the date “1885” in the center of the stained glass.
The building has a semicircular auditorium ringed with classrooms which can be opened into the sanctuary. Its architectural significance lies in its unique decorative treatment which sets it apart from the typical church. The building’s irregular outline and lively silhouette are complemented by extensive decorative detail. According to the Metro Historical Commission, the "decorative exuberance" of the Lindsley Avenue Church "is unmatched in existing Nashville churches."
The church received the Metro Nashville Historical Commission’s Architectural Award in 1978 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. The building continues to serve as the main place of assembly for the Lindsley Avenue Church of Christ and its ministries.
Dr. Philip Lindsley
Lindsley Avenue derives its name from Dr. Philip Lindsley (1786-1855), a former president of Princeton University. Dr. Lindsley served as the first president of the University of Nashville (established 1826) which was located across the street from the Lindsley Avenue church. A Presbyterian minister, Dr. Lindsley advocated for emancipation of the enslaved, formal training for teachers, and providing free education to the poor. The University of Nashville eventually became Montgomery Bell Academy for boys, the George Peabody College for Teachers, and the Vanderbilt Medical School. Lindsley Hall (built 1853) still stands across Lindsley Avenue and is the home of Metro Nashville government offices.
Grace Cumberland Presbyterian Church
The Lindsley Avenue Church was originally constructed for the Grace Cumberland Presbyterian Church in 1884. The Grace Church was a mission church of First Cumberland Presbyterian Church which began in Nashville in 1829. A report in The Cumberland Presbyterian dated October 10, 1895 [page 197] says "Conversions occur at almost every evening service held by the pastor, Rev. W. T. Rodgers, at Grace Church, and additions are made to the congregation each week." By 1899 Grace Church had grown from 100 to 451 members.
Lindsley Avenue Church of Christ
Since 1920 the Lindsley Avenue Church as been the home of one of the oldest churches of Christ in Nashville. The Lindsley Avenue Church of Christ traces its origins to a service held in 1855 by David Lipscomb, a founder of Lipscomb University and an early church leader among the churches of Christ in Tennessee.
The Lindsley Avenue congregation resulted from a merger of the South College Street Church of Christ and the Carrol Street Christian Church. The first meeting of the new Lindsley Avenue Church of Christ took place on October 17, 1920 with an estimated 1,600 people in attendance.