The history of Beverly Hills United Methodist Church begins in 1907 when Huntington was a young city. Beverly Hills and Walnut Hills were mostly farmland, and the community of Gallaherville was separated from the city by open spaces. On the northwest corner of Gallaher Street and Roland Park Drive was a one room church where services were held. All denominations were preached in this church. The couple who stimulated this activity was Mr. and Mrs. Edward Bowden.
Because of the influence of several Methodist families in the community, The Rev. E. J. Heller on Christmas Sunday, 1910, organized a Sunday School, meeting in Gallaher School, which was then at the corner of Gallaher Street and Allen Avenue. The members of this class formed the nucleus of the charter members of Walnut Hills Methodist Episcopal Church, known today as Beverly Hills United Methodist Church. The cornerstone for the new church building was laid at the northwest corner of Norway Avenue and Sycamore Street on September 21, 1911. The first worship service at Walnut Hills Methodist Church was on Palm Sunday, March 31, 1912. A week later, on Easter Sunday, the organizational meeting was held for the new church. The 59 men and women who attended that meeting were our charter members. Many of them were transfers from Cross Roads and Seventh Avenue Methodist Churches.
The earliest church officials were James F. Jackson, S. A. Gillette, William Trainer, and Edward Bowden. A. L. Young was the first Sunday School Superintendent. Mrs. W. T. (Martha) Miller was the first church organist; this instrument is believed to have been a foot-operated pump organ. The Beverly Hills UMC has been proud of its music program ever since. Other women active in the earliest days of the church were Mary McGinnis, Maggie Ross, Minnie Jackson, Goldie Turner, Hazel Stanley Edwards, and Isa Chapman.
The church was dedicated in 1913, and a parsonage constructed and first occupied in 1916. From the beginning, the church prospered and grew. In the early 1920s, planning began to erect a larger building.
The story of the church’s move to its present location on Washington Boulevard ands its overcoming of seemingly insurmountable difficulties bears repeating. The dedication and love of these members and their work have been an inspiration in succeeding years. Whatever gifts and services have been necessary to keep the church growing have been, in the spirit of those early members, gladly given.
About 1929, the Norway Avenue property was sold and construction started on a new church building on the northeast corner of Linden Circle and Washington Boulevard. Walls rose to about 10 feet when the great depression struck. Not only did work stop, but with the congregation unable to make payments to the Columbus, Ohio, contractor, the property had been deeded to him. The congregation had to stay in the Norway Avenue building, with its rent being paid by the First Methodist Church. The church was at its lowest ebb in its history.
In 1931, the contractor offered to give the property back if the church would assume a $3,500 obligation he owed a Columbus bank. That amount seemed impossible to a congregation unable to pay its rent and often the pastor’s meager salary. However, five members, Roy A. Edwards, Lyle Hensley, V. H. Holley, A. F. Tucker, and Claude Watts pledged to pay $5 a month each on the debt. The bank agreed, and the property was regained.
Construction on the new church resumed. A. F. Tucker served as the architect of the church, and church members joined in the manual labor of getting the church basement (now the site of Fellowship Hall) enclosed enough to have services. The small congregation moved there in 1933.
Work on the building, mostly by unpaid volunteers, continued, and bit by bit the walls arose. Finally, on Easter Sunday, 1936, the first services were held in the new sanctuary. God’s bright light had broken through the dark clouds of trouble. What a glorious day! What a marvelous triumph!
However, there was still much to do. Through succeeding years as the congregation grew, the east Church School wing was finished, the current parsonage erected, and much inside work completed. Each year saw more physical improvements and growth in numbers, giving and service.
By the 1950s it was time to think of more growth. On April 14, 1957, a campaign was launched to raise $125,000 for a new addition and remodeling and additions to the existing building. The west wing, including Church School rooms, a youth room , offices, and air conditioning, was consecrated March 15,1959. Then the chancel was enlarged, a new altar and furnishings installed, and a pipe organ bought. The altar and organ were consecrated and first used for Christmas services in 1960.
The passing years have brought a change in population patterns, but no lessening of our church’s service to God and our community. Our members always have been generous in support of their church and special-needs projects that have arisen. In the past fifty years, members have given well over $750,000 for special local church projects. This giving was in addition to support of the church budget and any special giving requested by our Annual or District Conferences.
Some of the projects and amounts were: memorials and special gifts, more than $125,000. Operation Safe and Sound in 1968 (building improvements and debt retirements), $85,000: Renovation I and II, 1978-81, $120,000; replacement of the roof in 1982, $25,000; our church van in 1996, $25,000; the Mickie Roberts Children’s Library in 2001, $65,000. In addition, there was begun in 1985 an endowment fund to care for major church maintenance and renovation projects, which has grown to a value of approximately $250,000. Individual gifts have included $66,968 to the endowment fund from the donation of Morris and Kathleen Thomas’ house to the church; $50,000 for the endowment fund; $15,000 for the H.H. Rogers Educational Fund; $10,000 for the King Education Fund; $8,000 to paint the sanctuary; and $2,000 for the Hazel Edwards Endowment Fund for adult choir robes.
Over the years, Beverly Hills UMC established a reputation as a strong “choir church.” In 1939, Louisa Rogers, a talented school music teacher, became our choir director and established a very sound music program for the church. Since then, two musically gifted women in particular, Janice Chandler Gold (former choir director for 51 years) and Harriet Wells Tucker (former organist for 62 1/2 years), made significant contributions to our church’s ministry of music. They served in their respective roles for more than half the life of our church. During their tenure as leaders of our music program, our church enjoyed the best of sacred music by master composers, adding spiritual enrichment to our worship services. Today, this rich tradition of music in our church continues under the fine leadership of Ronald V. Short, Jr.
Whatever has been accomplished by our people’s love and sacrifice would not have been possible without the dedicated caring service of their pastors. Beverly Hills has been blessed by the ministry of these servants of our Lord and their families. Each has left his particular imprint on the church history.
During the weekend of June 22-24, 2012, we celebrated the church’s centennial. Not only was it a weekend to commemorate our church heritage and honor those who gave so much to the church’s ministry over its first century, but it was also an inspiration for our current congregation to continue striving to make disciples in perpetuity. After 1oo years of Christian Service, Beverly Hills UMC confidently looks forward to our next century of service for our God and our community.