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Historic church to be redeveloped as Gospel Music Hall of Fame in plan backed by Steve Smith

"I have always wanted to share my love of gospel music and help everyone understand and appreciate these joyous songs"
Credit: SLBJ
Part of the Second Baptist Church property in the Central West End.

ST. LOUIS — A local television and film producer is partnering with developer Steve Smith to redevelop a long-vacant Central West End church into a Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

With backing from Smith’s firms New + Found and the Lawrence Group, Monica Butler is spearheading a $22 million project to turn the historic church property at 500 North Kingshighway Boulevard into a 40,000-square-foot destination that will be called Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Cultural Arts, Entertainment and Gospel Research Center. Butler is the founder of The Butler Group and Archview Media.

A construction timeline has not been set.

The developers have the property under contract, Smith told the Business Journal. The property had been vacant since 2006 before it went on the market again last year for $3 million. The Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation in 2019 listed the church as a place "in peril," saying it has suffered losses through theft and vandalism. 

Built in 1907, the former Second Baptist Church is part of the Holy Corners Historic District, a group of religious and public assembly buildings near the intersection of Kingshighway and Washington boulevards on the northern edge of the Central West End. The property is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Butler, who attended the church as a child, has always had a love of gospel music since her mother, Jacqueline Butler, sang as part of the gospel group The O’Neal Twins, according to a news release.

“I have always wanted to share my love of gospel music and help everyone understand and appreciate these joyous songs, and celebrate people like St. Louis’ own Willie Mae Ford SmithZella Jackson Price and so many others who deserve recognition in our area and across the country. Gospel Music influenced a generation of musicians from Aretha Franklin to Beyonce,” Butler said in the release.

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