Churches Large and Small
Known as “The City with Spirit,” Cleveland is often also called “the buckle of the Bible belt.” From small country chapels to large mega-churches, faith is tightly woven into the fabric of this community. This spiritual foundation helps ensure that our community is a quality place to live, work, play and raise a family.
The Church of God International Office & Prayer Plaza
Since 1904, Cleveland has been the headquarters for the international offices of the Church of God, one of America’s oldest continuing Pentecostal denominations. More than 6.5 million people claim Church of God membership around the world. A 24-acre campus at the corner of Keith and 25th streets is a beautiful asset to the city and includes three major office buildings and a Prayer Garden that is accessible to the city’s Greenway. The Leadership and Communications Center contains a small conference center that is available for public use. Office hours are 8 a.m.- 5 p.m., Monday-Friday, with the Prayer Garden open 24/7.
2490 Keith St. (423) 472-3361.
A private, Christ-Centered liberal arts university operated by the Church of God. Lee began life as a Bible Training School in 1918. After a hiatus, (the college briefly relocated to Sevierville) the school returned to its current location in 1947, relocating to buildings once owned by Centenary College, a Methodist women’s school, and Bob Jones College. The buildings once owned by Bob Jones include the dormitory and classroom used by Billy Graham while he matriculated in 1936. The University has now grown into the largest Christian institution in Tennessee and the second largest of Tennessee’s 35 accredited private colleges and universities. This liberal arts institution offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 48 majors in over 100 programs of study and also offers 15 master’s degrees. Lee University is located at 1120 Ocoee Street. (423) 614-8000.
Dixon Pentecostal Research Center
Housed on the campus of Lee University. the Dixon Pentecostal Research Center contains one of the largest collection of Pentecostal books and media in the world as well as the archives of the Church of God. The Research Center includes the “Pentecostal Heritage Exhibit,” a changing exhibit that depicts various aspects of the history of the Church of God. The Research Center and exhibit are open to the public. 260 11th St. (423) 614-8576.
North Cleveland Church Of God
North Cleveland Church of God is the oldest continuing Church of God in the nation. Organized in 1907, the church facilities now include a 2,400-seat sanctuary and a prayer center. 335 11th St. (423) 476-5513.
Home of Church of God publishing and Tennessee Music and Printing Company, one of the world’s largest producer’s of shaped-note songbooks and “southern gospel” music. The press also publishes the music of James D. Vaughn, the father of southern gospel music. The revitalization of this music by Bill Gaither’s “Homecoming” videotapes and DVDs made this style a growing industry. This was also the location of the Church of God headquarters from 1935 until 1968. The press offers public tours two times per day. 1080 Montgomery Ave. (800) 553-8506.
Born in Indiana in 1865, Ambrose Jessup (A.J.) Tomlinson came to the south as a “mountain missionary,” establishing a ministry base in Culbertson, NC in 1899. He joined the Church of God in 1903, and moved to Cleveland, Tennessee the following year. After moving to Cleveland in 1904, he purchased the house at 2525 Gaut St. One legend claims he got a good price on the house because it was supposedly haunted. In 1909, the Church elected him their first general overseer. Subsequently, his home would become their first “headquarters.” After differences of opinion prompted the church to remove Tomlinson from office in 1923, he left the Church of God and helped form the Church of God of Prophesy. His house, in turn, also played host to the headquarters for this new organization.
Grave of A.J. Tomlinson
The grave of A.J. Tomlinson and several other Church of God overseers of the Church of God are buried in Fort Hill Cemetery on Ocoee Street in Cleveland, as well as in nearby Hillcrest Cemetery. Fort Hill is the final resting place for many of Cleveland’s prominent founding citizens.
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and Mausoleum
Organized in 1867, this Gothic Revival Style church was built by John H. Craigmiles to honor the memory of his 7-year-old daughter, Nina, who was tragically killed when the buggy she was riding with her grandfather was struck by a train. The incident occurred on St. Luke’s Day, October 18, 1871. The accompanying mausoleum is built of Carrera marble with walls that are four feet thick. Nina’s sarcophagus was modeled by Italian sculptor Fabia Cotte. The church and mausoleum were placed on the National Historic Register of Historic Places in 1982.
First Presbyterian Church
First Presbyterian Church has the oldest existing sanctuary in Cleveland. Established in 1837, construction on this building began in 1856 and the church was dedicated in October of 1858. Beginning in 1935, a remodeling project introduced a three-story addition and made significant changes to the sanctuary. During this time the original gallery, once used by slaves prior to the Civil War, was removed, and the sanctuary was enlarged and redecorated. During the Civil War, the sanctuary was damaged. Musket balls are still embedded in the church steeple. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. 433 Ocoee St. (423) 476-5584.
Broad Street Methodist
Like the congregation of First Presbyterian, Broad Street Methodist was established in 1837. In 1849 the church served as the host of the first session of the Holston Conference to be held in the Ocoee Region. The original church was constructed on the site in 1867, but made way for the current edifice, which was built in 1893. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. 263 Broad St. (423) 476-5586.
Charleston Cumberland Presbyterian Church
This Greek-Revival style church served as a confederate hospital in 1863. That November, Troops of Company C of the First Tennessee Calvary, CSA, who came largely from neighboring McMinn and Monroe counties, helped to evacuate the town of Charleston. The unit then joined the 38th Tennessee Infantry, led by Col. John C. Carter in occupying this town. The window sills of this building are gnawed considerably, evidence of where the soldiers horses were tethered.**
*Credits and thanks for this section go to Dr. David Roebuck of the Dixon Pentecostal Research Center.
** Credits and thanks for this section go to Dr. Van West, Research Director for MTSU Center for Historic Preservation.