On September 8, 1906 a new area in West Little Rock called Forest Park was platted. It wasn’t long before a new church was to be formed with the help of Presiding Elder, Dr. A. C. Millar and Rev. D. P. Forsythe. The first meeting was held in the home of Mr. & Mrs. S. C. Grooms at 1900 North McKinley Street on March 6, 1910. The Grooms had a small grocery store in the front of their home and living quarters in the rear. The little cottage is still there.
The Little Rock Annual Conference listed the church as the “Henderson-Forest Park” charge. That name was later shortened to Forest Park. The 1913 Annual Conference reported its membership as 17. Bert L. Cutting was the first Chairman of the Board of Stewards.
Meanwhile, a Congregational church in the area had started a building on the southeast corner of Pierce and Q streets (Q was later renamed Cantrell Road). For unknown reasons, they decided to sell the building and Forest Park bought it on April 10, 1914. It was little more than a closed-in basement at the time it was purchased, but it was later completed and would be their home until 1951.
By 1950, West Little Rock was growing at a fast pace. Membership in the Forest Park church was about 160 with attendance averaging near 50. But when they began losing members to the new churches that were being built in the area, something had to be done. They chose to build a new building and change locations.
Search for a new location started immediately. In June, 1951, Rev. Charles Richard W. Richards was appointed Pastor of Forest Park. The old building was sold to the Masonic Lodge for $6,750 and the church was granted rent free use of it for one year. In just a few weeks, the 150 seat auditorium could no longer handle the attendance and worship services were moved to the Heights Theater.
Things continued to move rapidly. The name was changed from Forest Park to St. Paul Methodist Church in 1951. Five lots were purchased on Durwood Road in the Kingwood Addition of Little Rock in early 1952 and phase one of the building program was started.. On December 23, 1953 services were held for the first time in their new building which consisted of a temporary sanctuary and some classrooms. On December 20, 1956, the mortgage on this building was burned.
The church plant, as it exists today, was completed in four phases. Construction started on the south end of the property, which is where the first phase was built. The second phase was started in 1957 and completed in 1958. It was constructed behind and became a part of the first building. It consisted of more classrooms, a worship and meeting room and a surfaced court area for games.
In 1959, bids were taken for construction of the new sanctuary, the third phase of the overall plan. It would be built on the north end of the property, leaving a space between it and the two sections, already completed. On September 18, 1960, Rev. Charles Richards preached the first sermon entitled, Decade of Discipleship, at the 8:30 service in the new sanctuary. Bishop Kenneth Pope preached the 11:00 service with 870 attending both services. Fifteen hundred persons had joined St. Paul in that decade. And it continued to grow until it reached a high of 1161 members in 1964.
The fourth and final phase of the building, consisting of office space, additional classrooms and a choir rehearsal room was completed in 1966 in the space between the sanctuary and the rest of the original building. The church plant was now complete.
Twelve outstandingly beautiful stained glass windows for the sanctuary, which were totally designed and constructed by members of St. Paul, were dedicated August 3, 1997. Also, extensive remodeling of the building at a cost of close to $1,500,000 was completed in 1999. St. Paul now has one of the finest church facilities in Arkansas.
But as beautiful and as functional as the church building is, its people are what makes it a unique, loving, caring, friendly church.