At one point, west Omaha was regarded as anything beyond North 30th Street. As it grew along the old Military Road now called Hamilton Street, the city needed new amenities. One of the earliest was a congregation that moved out from downtown Omaha. This is a history of the Walnut Hill Methodist Episcopal Church.
Opening a New Church
These are three of the earliest ministers at Walnut Hill Methodist Episcopal Church.
In 1891, Methodists decided to open a church to serve the Orchard Hill, Walnut Hill, Clifton Hill, and Bemis Park neighborhoods. Originally called Welsey Methodist Church, its name was changed five years after opening. Organized by Rev. T.C. Clendening, Rev. Dr. T.C. Webster was the first minister. The first church building was the original Hanscom Park Methodist Church, and was moved to 4039 Charles Street by huge teams of horses and several wagons.
The emerging area was booming with a mixture of fine upper class homes, middle- and working-class homes, and smaller houses and rowhouses for low-income families. Eventually located near the Nebraska Methodist Hospital, this region of North Omaha was served by the Belt Line Railway, streetcars, had brick-paved streets, and seemed destined for fine living for centuries to come. It was all centered on North 40th and Hamilton, a busy commercial intersection with grocery stores, drug store and bakeries, a theater, and the Walnut Hill Reservoir, which was eventually decked out as a fine park with fountains and elaborate stonework throughout. The nearby Walnut Hill School was on the way to the bustling Military Avenue, and lots was happening.
In 1911, the Seward Street Methodist Church was merged into the Walnut Hill congregation. Originally known as the 18th Street Methodist Church, it brought 30 members to the church.
By 1916, it had 400 members when they celebrated the church’s 25th anniversary. By then the church had an Epworth League, a very full Sunday School, a Methodist Youth Fellowship, and a men’s group. In the first several decades of its existence, the church was closely connected to the nearby Methodist Hospital, hosting special events for its nurses and deaconesses, doctors and others, as well as having services, prayers, meals and other activities for the hospital.
In 1927, the church built a large new Sunday School addition to the church.
In 1932, a new church was built at North 45th and Corby Streets in the Benson neighborhood. A merger of Walnut Hill, Benson, and Centenary Methodist Episcopal Churches, the new building was larger and more grand than any of its predecessors. For several years after the merger, the location at North 41st and Charles was called the “Walnut Hill branch of St. Paul’s Methodist Church,” and union services were held there for the local neighborhood and more. Lowe Avenue Presbyterian, Calvary Baptist, and other congregations joined in.
Merging for Change
In an interesting turn of events though, it was 1936 when the St. Paul’s congregation sold the Walnut Hill building to a new congregation called Wesley Methodist Church. The original 1891 name of the Walnut Hill Church was… Wesley Methodist Church, originally known as the Norwegian-Danish Methodist Church. This congregation was at South 31st and Leavenworth Streets before moving here. However, the congregation’s growth didn’t happen and in 1939 they moved back to South 31st and Leavenworth. Ultimately, Wesley wasn’t a sustainable congregation and in 1943 it was merged with Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church in Kountze Place.
The Central Church of the Nazarene bought the former Wesley Methodist building in 1939 and finished paying it off in 1946. In 1964, Central Nazarene Church dedicated a new building in west Omaha and moved away.
Next it became the Pentacostal House of Prayer, serving in that role from 1965 through the 2000s.
Kingdom Builders Today
The Kingdom Builders Christian Center has been located there since 2010. Pastor Darryl Brown, Jr. is the founder of the church, which advertises a “diverse congregation, judgement free zone, free worship environment, relevant preaching/teaching.” Standing on the southeast corner of North 41st and Charles Streets, as of 2019 the building was listed by the Douglas County Assessor’s Office as being in “average” condition. A July 2022 Google image shows the exterior of the church is in rough condition, with paint peeling, moss gathering, and sections of the plaster eroding from the building. However, it is an active congregation that weathered the pandemic with remote worship and more.
It has not been recognized for its age, cultural contributions or other historical significance as an official City of Omaha Landmark or listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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MY ARTICLES RELATED TO THE HISTORY OF 40TH AND HAMILTON STREETS
NEIGHBORHOODS: Orchard Hill | Walnut Hill | Bemis Park | Clifton Hill
PLACES: Walnut Hill Reservoir | Military Road | Walnut Hill Methodist Church | Belt Line Railway
OTHER: Cuming Street | Saddle Creek Road |
MY ARTICLES ABOUT HISTORIC CHURCHES IN NORTH OMAHA
GENERAL: Directory | Black Churches | Florence Churches
METHODIST: 17th Street | Pearl Memorial UMC | St. John’s AME | Bethel AME | Cleaves Temple | Ames Avenue | Trinity | Walnut Hill | 18th Street |
BAPTIST: Mount Moriah | Zion | Immanuel |
CATHOLIC: Holy Family | St. Benedict the Moor | St. John’s | Holy Angels | Sacred Heart | St. Cecilia
PRESBYTERIAN: Calvin Memorial | Hillside | First United | Covenant | St. Paul
EPISCOPALIAN: St. Phillips |
COGIC: New Bethel | Faith
LUTHERAN: Hope | St. Paul
OTHERS: Mt. Calvary |
RELATED: St. Clare’s Monastery | Omaha Presbyterian Theological Seminary | North Omaha Catholic Schools | Black Churches | Florence Churches