Faith has always played an important role in Little Rock, and many of the city’s places of worship hold significant architectural or historical value.
Whether you’re looking to explore Little Rock’s religious history or just visit some of the city’s most beautiful buildings, you’ll find it on the Little Rock Historic Church Tour.
(Churches do not offer public tours)
* National Register of Historic Places
** Churches in a National Register Historic District
*First Missionary Baptist Church
Built 1882 701 S. Gaines St.
Pioneering African American church in Little Rock, established in 1845 by Rev. Wilson Brown. In 1882 the church permanently located at 701 S. Gaines Street. The original building still stands today and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. First Missionary Baptist serves parishioners and also hosts many social and political events. In 1891 hundreds of citizens met here to protest the state’s recently enacted Separate Coach Law that segregated passenger cars and waiting rooms in train stations. They marched from the church to the then state capitol, now the Old State House. In 1963, four months before the famous “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., visited First Missionary Baptist to deliver the 118th anniversary sermon.
Source: Little Rock African American History Brochure, MLAAH, LLC
*Mount Zion Baptist Church
Built 1884 906 S. Cross St.
Mount Zion congregation was established in 1877 to provide religious, educational, and economic support to black people as free citizens. Mount Zion was integral in the formation of Arkansas Baptist College which was organized at the church in 1884. College classes were conducted on church premises. In 1926, the current Prairie Style brick building, unique in Little Rock, replaced the 1886 church frame structure. The late Fred T. Guy, who served as pastor in 1931, was instrumental in Mt. Zion’s heightened profile particularly during the 1957 integration of Central High School.
Source: Little Rock African American History Brochure, MLAAH, LLC
*Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
Built 1884 310 W. 17th St.
Designed by Arkansas Episcopal Bishop Henry Niles Pierce’s son, Rev. A. W. Pierce, this Cathedral is the oldest Episcopal church building in central Arkansas and the third oldest church building in the area. It is an example of Gothic Revival architecture patterned after rural English churches. Designed in a cruciform shape (the shape of a cross) in English Gothic style, the Cathedral features symbols of its namesake, the Trinity, such as trefoils, fleurs-de-lis, and clover leaves. The Cathedral was built in three stages, as finances permitted. The first service was held on October 19, 1884, when only the nave and baptistry were finished and the altar was placed under the west window on an improvised chancel. At the convocation meeting in the spring of 1885, Trinity reported 67 members. The transepts and crossing were completed by February 1889 when the altar was placed under the north transept window. The chancel was finished by Easter of 1892, thus completing the structure, and moving the altar to the east end of the Cathedral. The cathedral proper has changed little since the late 19th century, but several buildings have been added, creating a complex that occupies a vast area.
The Cathedral of St. Andrew is the oldest continuing place of worship in Little Rock (Pulaski County). It was dedicated in 1881 by Bishop Edward Fitzgerald, the second bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Little Rock. Built in Gothic Revival style, the Cathedral of St. Andrew is made of rusticated granite mined from the Fourche Mountains, the northern section of the Ouachita Mountains. The structure was designed by architect Thomas Harding. The bell tower contains a 3,400-pound bell, the heaviest in Pulaski County. The bell tower stands 231 feet tall and was completed in 1887. The cathedral is the seat of the bishop of Little Rock; deceased bishops are buried in a crypt below the church.
Located downtown, the First Presbyterian Church established its congregation in 1828 making it the oldest one in its denomination and the oldest surviving one this side of the Mississippi River. Designed by architect John Parks Almand, the church was built in 1921, and later listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. The work of the windows was directed by George Luther of Payne Studios from Patterson, New Jersey. The windows were dedicated in 1928. Thousands of bits of glass, from 18-inch squares to tiny medallions, are featured throughout the sanctuary. The designs are reproduced from thirteenth and fourteenth century windows in the cathedrals of Europe. They are authentic in drawing and admirably adapted to the Gothic style. Built in 2004, FPC’s impressive Nichols & Simpson organ is the center of their music and praise during worship. Featuring 3 manuals, 47 stops, and 61 ranks, their organ delivers impressive and quality sound for its church community.
This brick building was designed by Frank W. Gibb and built in 1899-1900. It’s one of Little Rock’s best examples of Romanesque Revival architecture, with square towers at its corners, and its predominantly smooth brick exterior contrasted by rusticated granite trim. This is the second building to be located at this site. The first one was destroyed by fire. The congregation, founded in 1831 as the Cherry Street Methodist Episcopal Church, is the oldest Methodist congregation in the city. The church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
The building that houses Quapaw Quarter UMC was originally built as the third location for Winfield Methodist Church, one of the largest Methodist churches in the state during the 1940s. Designed in a popular neo-Gothic style by architects Charles Thompson and Thomas Harding, construction began in 1921 and was completed in 1926. From the depths of the boiler room with its (retired) under-street coal repository to the former fall-out shelters that are now used as storage areas, to the tip of the landmark bell tower that has never housed a bell, the building is over 5 stories tall and measures approximately 55,000 square feet. The arched triptych window on the west end of the sanctuary above the front doors of the church was installed in 1926. The rest of the unique stained glass windows were designed by Memphis master stained glass artist Dorothy Sturm and installed in 1957. A square tower rises above the center of the transept. The church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. It has been the home of Quapaw Quarter United Methodist Church since the 1990s.
St. Edwards Church is a historic Roman Catholic church at 801 Sherman Street in Little Rock. The original two story frame structure was built in 1885 On November 10, 1901, the cornerstone for the present church was laid, and on July 4, 1905, the new church was dedicated. The main altar, crafted in Germany, is of hand-carved oak and onyx-inlay. The statues on the main alter—Saint Edward, Saint Catherine and Saint Henry—are of hand-carved wood and painted. The statues marking the 14 stations on the Way of the Cross also are made of German craftsmanship. The church is of Gothic design and its architect was Charles L. Thompson. The pointed arches, the soaring lines, the slender columns have a close kinship with the many European cathedrals. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Originally serving Little Rock’s larger German immigrant population, it now has a robust Spanish language program.
The congregation of Shiloh Baptist Church was organized in 1886 and initially met in a house at the corner of Eleventh and Hanger streets. Rev. O. H. Redicks served as the first pastor. According to Little Rock City Directories, by 1897, Shiloh Baptist Church had constructed a building at the southwest corner of 12th and Hanger, which was block 6, lot 20 in Hanger’s Addition. The 1 1/2-story, wood-frame building had a bell tower in the center of the front façade. This structure served the congregation until 1919, when a new building was constructed on the same site. Shiloh Baptist Church has a long history in the Hanger Hill neighborhood. The current church building was constructed in 1919 as a wood-frame structure and was remodeled in the mid-1940s with a brick veneer. In the mid-1940s, Shiloh’s wood-frame building from 1919 was remodeled with a buff brick veneer. A small addition was constructed on the west side of the church as well. During the remodeling, buttresses and taller spires were added to the towers, a portico with arched openings was added to the front façade, and some window openings were changed to accommodate large stained glass windows. Before the 1940s remodeling, the pulpit was centered along the south wall of the church, and the pews faced south. During the remodeling, the orientation of the sanctuary was changed to its current arrangement with the pulpit on the west side of the room, and the floor was sloped toward the pulpit. The church’s 1940s exterior features elements of the Gothic Revival style with buttressed towers and pointed arch window and door openings. The stained glass windows were purchased by church members and fundraising clubs within the congregation. The old church bell, manufactured by The C. S. Bell Company of Hillsboro, Ohio, remains in the northeast tower. Based on the maker’s mark, it could date to as early as 1894 and may be from the first wood-frame church on this site. The church was added to the National Register of Historic places in 2020.
Emmanuel Baptist Church is a historic church building at 3323 W. 12th St. in Little Rock, Arkansas. It is a 1 1⁄2-story brick structure, with a striking full-height Greek temple front, that has six Ionic columns supporting a fully pedimented gable with small octagonal window at its center. It was built in 1925 to a design by noted Arkansas architect Charles L. Thompson, and is the only one of his church designs known to use the Greek temple front. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
The Thompson and Harding firm originally constructed this building for the Central Presbyterian Church of Little Rock in 1921. It is an unusual church design with touches of Gothic Revival and Craftsman styles that fit in with this historic residential neighborhood. The yellow brick and stucco church features half-timber effects, banks of casement windows and two brick piers on the façade.
Built 1941 West 12th Street & South Louisiana Street
The historic building of First Baptist Church of Little Rock (Pulaski County) is located at the corner of 12th and Louisiana streets just south of downtown. Various congregations of First Baptist worshiped in locations around the city throughout the 1800s. In 1889, First Baptist purchased a new lot and began construction on a large brick church at the historic site of 12th and Louisiana streets. The current building was built on the same site in 1941–42 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 21, 1994. In 1974, the First Baptist congregation moved to west Little Rock. The buildings on Louisiana remained unused until 1993, when Ernestine (Ernie) Dodson purchased the buildings on Louisiana to create EMOBA (Ernie’s Museum of Black Arkansas). In 2018, Preserve Arkansas listed the First Baptist Church buildings as one of the most endangered historical locations in Arkansas.
The structure was built for The First Church of Christ, Scientist was designed by John Parks Almand, a noted Arkansas architect whose designs for religious properties often exhibit an intended placement of atypical designs in atypical environments. The church was constructed in 1919-20. It appears that Almand’s inspiration came from the newly popular California Mission style, which set it apart rom other church architecture in the capital city, which was more Gothic style. A newspaper article some years later would refer the sanctuary as one that, “has long been one of the most impressive churches in the city.” It now serves as home to the Little Rock Community Church.
Known as the oldest Black Methodist church in Arkansas, Wesley Chapel originated from the combined membership of white and black congregants of Cherry Street Methodist Church in Little Rock prior to Emancipation. In 1853 black members of Cherry Street Methodist moved to a separate building located near Eighth and Broadway and named it Wesley Chapel. Rev. William Wallace Andrews was Wesley’s first pastor. The church organized the first school for children of freedmen in 1863. Over time, several offshoot churches developed from Wesley Chapel including St. Paul Temple AME Zion, First Congregational, and White’s Chapel now known as White Memorial UMC. By 1883, Wesley built a permanent brick sanctuary but it was destroyed by fire in 1903-04. A subsequent fire partially destroyed the rebuilt church in 1924. The present structure was completed in 1927 by prominent African American contractor, Med Cullins. In 1974, under the leadership of Rev. W. Harry Bass, Wesley purchased a one-fourth block of land from Philander Smith and, in 1990, undertook major renovations. Wesley Chapel has always been associated with Philander Smith activities and to this day Wesley and Philander continue an enduring relationship. “A History of the Church” (1945) written by Charlotte E. Andrews Stephens, daughter of Rev. William Andrews, and “Historical Observations on Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church” written by Dr. Crawford Mims in honor of Wesley’s Sesquicentennial in 2003, are two comprehensive sources detailing the story of Wesley Chapel.
Source: Little Rock African American History Brochure, MLAAH, LLC
**Christ Episcopal Church
Built 1940-1941 509 Scott St.
MacArthur Park Historic District Christ Church traces its roots back to March 10, 1839, when Bishop Leonidas Polk presided over the first Episcopal service in Little Rock and organized a parish. Christ Church has a long history at this location. In fact, on March 10, 2014, the Christ Church parish celebrated its 175th anniversary. However, Christ Church lost its first two buildings to fire, and the third and current church was built in 1940-1941, designed by architect Edwin Cromwell. This building is an excellent example of the Gothic Revival style, which sought to recreate building design from the Middle Ages and was most commonly associated with the stone cathedrals of Europe. Dr. William Postell Witsell, the Rector at the time, oversaw all of the design details of the building under its construction. Christ Church features Gothic Revival characteristics like pointed-arch window and door openings, crockets (or finials) on the front parapet wall, and buttresses. It was reminiscent of several Church of England structures in Great Britain admired by Dr. Witsell. The stained glass windows were manufactured by the Franz-Mayer Company of New York; in 2019 the windows were re-dedicated after having been restored by the Franz-Mayer Company in its location in Germany. This is the only downtown church with all of the stained glass windows installed at the stame time. The adjoining parish house, one of the first church structures to have a gymnasium in Little Rock, was constructed under the leadership of Dr. Witsell working with architect Charles L. Thompson (Cromwell’s father-in-law). It opened in the late 1920s.
Built in 1927 to serve as the first parsonage for the First Methodist Church, architect John Parks Almand–who also designed Little Rock Central High School-designed it in the classic Georgian style. Hot Springs contractor George Burden, who also built the Arlington Hotel, executed the plans.
This building is an example of the Gothic Revival style with a towering, dramatic spire. From 1888 to 1921, it served as the Winfield Memorial Methodist Church. In 1983 the building was converted into the Cathedral Square Apartments.
MacArthur Park Historic District First Lutheran Church is located within the MacArthur Park Historic District which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, making it Little Rock’s first NR-listed historic district. The church was constructed in 1888 with a red brick exterior, but the church was later painted “dove gray” in 1910-1911. The church is an excellent example of the Gothic Revival style of architecture with its asymmetrical façade, multiple towers of difference size and shape, steeply pitched roof, gables ending in parapets, and the pointed arch or lancet window and door openings. The steeple is 167 feet in height.
St. Bartholomew Catholic Church
Built 1931 1622 Marshall St.
St. Bartholomew Catholic Church was founded in 1909, primarily serving a Black congregation. While the original location was located on 8th Street, a church and rectory were built at its current location in 1931, and continues to be part of Little Rock's religious community today.