By: Blake Stewart
From abandoned churches to caves, Trevecca’s campus has historically been a community of healing.
Since it’s finding in 1898, Trevecca has moved locations, but kept the same mission.
“Our faith calls us to be engaged in the transformation of those around us and to get in the trenches to find what the need is,” said Dan Boone, university president. “It’s an extension of God to be able to help our neighbors.”
The story of Trevecca starts in 1898, when the university’s founder, James McClurkan got together with a group of individuals and formed the Pentecostal mission of Nashville.
McClurkan began his work by holding Chautauqua classes, a form of open-air learning that focused on teaching the Bible, preaching and evangelism missions all in one setting.
As the number of followers began to grow, McClurkan knew there was a need to find a permanent home.
Trevecca’s first home was in an abandoned building left by the Tulip Street Methodist Church in East Nashville that was rented for $15. At this location, McClurkan began classes to train Christian workers in street evangelism.
“While in East Nashville, we were working with working class poor people in the community and holding revivals for those that lived in the area,” said Steve Hoskins, associate professor of religion and author of a book on the history of Trevecca.
McClurkan’s mission in East Nashville continued to grow with record numbers of students giving themselves to the ministry. With McClurkan’s mission making an impact and continued growth, he was faced with finding another home for his followers.
Trevecca found its second home at the abandoned Hynez elementary school building that stood in the cities first government housing projects near the state capitol.
This location has a unique history located in what was known at them as “hell’s half acre.”
“Every brothel and gambling din was here and we put a holy school right in the middle of it,” says Hoskins.
The Hynez building was also a hospital during the Civil War that housed soldiers with sexually transmitted diseases.
During the war when the union army occupied Nashville, there was an outbreak of STD’s among the soldiers and the city’s prostitutes. This led to Nashville becoming the first city in the country to legalize prostitution.
According to Hoskins, McClurkan was not deterred by this, because he believed that such a setting was where holiness people needed to do the ministry of God.
“Every community we have been at, there have been people with real human need, people waiting on us to provide help,” said Hoskins. “God has led us to those places.”
In 1905, Trevecca moved its campus a third time to 4th Ave. at the Pentocastoal Mission Tabernacle that neighbors what is now known as the Ryman Auditorium.
This area of Nashville at the time was known as mission central, placing the campus next to the Salvation Army and a Jewish synagogue.
“While there we took up hands with our neighbors, fed the hungry and spread the good news of the gospel,” said Hoskins.
In 1914, Trevecca moved a third time to Renraw, the estate to local civic leader Percy Warner.
The Great Depression came during the end of the 1920’s and Trevecca lost everything. The university would later move to the Roger Williams University, a historically black college that no longer exists.
Between 1932-1935 Trevecca and its members were evicted, much like many others during that time due to a lack of funds.
Once evicted, Trevecca did not give up and moved to a cave in Dickson County, Tennessee called Ruscin cave.
After the depression, Trevecca made its final move in 1935 to the university’s current location that has been home to several historic places.
On the hilltop that is now Trevecca once sat Walden college, an African American college run by the United Methodist women’s missionary, an orphanage run by the Roman Catholic Church and Steven’s Asylum, an asylum for people who were experiencing diseases that required quarantine.
Trevecca continues its mission today in serving the community and providing its students with an education focused on the Christian faith
“I’m proud we have remained unapologetically Christian and we want to have an open-door policy that welcomes people and to model Christ and what it looks like to be a Christian leader and servant,” said Lena Hegi Welch, dean of school of arts and sciences.
Helping its neighbors is something that Trevecca has historically done and continues to do today.
“Trevecca has always been a compassionate school,” said Dan Boone, university president. “What we have strived to do over the years is to embed our efforts in the community into our academic programs so that it’s an ongoing experience in our institution.”
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