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Highlights of Downtown Nashville Walking Tour
Item 22 of 33

This grey granite Neo-classical Revival style building was constructed in 1913 to serve as the headquarters of the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. The building now holds multiple commercial office spaces and has been a National Register of Historic Places listing since 1980. The Sunday School Board, organized in 1891 at the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Birmingham, was responsible for education and publishing, and the building's name refers to Dr. J.M. Frost, who served as the corresponding secretary. Visitors to the building can see Dr. Frost's office as it has been restored to match its original appearance.

Front and partial south side of Frost Building in 1980 photo for NRHP (Doug Brachey)

Building, Sky, Black, Style

Detail of top of main facade of Frost Building in 1980 photo (Brachey for NRHP)

Window, Building, Sky, Facade

Plain rear facade on 9th N. and partial south side along alley in 1980 photo (Brachey for NRHP)

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Dr. Frost's restored office in Frost Building in 1980 photo (Brachey for NRHP)

Property, Building, Television, Picture frame

The architect and the builder of the Frost Building were Hart-Gardner and Selden Breck, respectively. When the building was constructed in 1913, Eighth Ave. N. was still Spruce Ave; the street has been renamed Rosa L. Parks Blvd. for the Civil Rights icon. The 52 by 150-foot building spans the whole block along Furman Alley to Ninth Ave. N. (formerly McLemore St.). The neo-Classical style building is now four stories tall with a basement; originally, the rear half of the structure, built of yellow brick, was only two stories high. In 1924, the extra two stories were built onto the rear half, to match the front half, but the exterior remained plain. The two engaged columns flanking the front entrance are 40 feet tall and topped by Corinthian capitals; the pilasters at each front corner have the same details. The inscription above the columns reads "BAPTIST SUNDAY SCHOOL BOARD." The molded entablature is topped by a balustraded parapet.

The Southern Baptist Convention, the original owner of the building, is one of the largest Protestant denominations in the U.S. The Sunday School Board, organized in 1891 at the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Birmingham, was responsible for education and publishing. An earlier board, founded in 1863 at Augusta, Georgia, published a Sunday School paper (Kind Words) but the Board was later discontinued; the newspaper grew from a small monthly paper for children to an eight-page weekly for all ages by the early twentieth century. Nashville was chosen as the location of the new Board, partly because it was in the geographical center of the area covered by the Southern Baptist Convention (New Mexico to Maryland), and because Nashville was a hub for printing businesses in the South. The first President of the new Board was W.R.L. Smith of Tennessee, with another Tennessean, G.A. Lofton, as Vice President. J.M. Frost became the first Corresponding Secretary.

The Board used to meet in a building on Cherry (Fourth) St., opposite the Maxwell House. They next moved to the Presbyterian Publishing House and then to the Methodist Publishing House. The Board purchased a house at 167 Fourth Ave. N. in 1897 for its offices and sold it in 1903. They next bought a mansion at 710 Church St. and sold it in 1912 for a great profit; they were allowed to stay there until their new building was ready.

The lot cost $60,000 and the new building cost $160,000. Stone came from quarries in Bowling Green, Kentucky and the North Carolina mountains. An image from Frost's book shows the building under construction, with a team of 14 horses hauling a 27,000-pound stone to the site; four of these stones were needed for the bases of the columns. Sunday School Board professional and clerical workers' offices were located in the Frost Building. The new building was formally presented to the Southern Baptist Convention on May 16th, 1914. President of the Sunday School Board then was Dr. E.E. Folk; A.B. Hill was head of the Business Committee and J.M. Frost was Corresponding Secretary. Frost likened the new building to "a Baptist Business Temple" with a three-fold purpose of business place, banking house, and temple.

The Sunday School Board undertook major renovations in 1979 but retained most of the original features. The office of Dr. Frost was restored, using photos as a guide, and including the original desk and chair. The Sunday School Board changed their name in 1998 to LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, with James T. Draper Jr. as president. The Frost Building now holds multiple office tenants, including 20/20 Research and Clark Construction Group, LLC.

Achord, Steve. Sunday School Board gives first report as LifeWay Christian Resources of SBC, BaptistPress. June 10th, 1998. Accessed August 31st, 2022.

Commercial Cafe. The Frost Building - Office Space Availability, Commercial Cafe: Downtown Nashville. January 1st, 2022. Accessed August 31st, 2022.

Frost, J. M. The Sunday School Board, Southern Baptist Convention: Its History and Work. Nashville, TN. Sunday School Board Southern Baptist Convention, 1914.

Householder, Lloyd. NRHP Nomination of Frost Building, Nashville, Tennessee. National Register. Washington, DC. National Park Service, 1980.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

National Park Service (NPS):