The First Baptist Church of Conway has a long history that predates even Faulkner County. Conway Baptist Church, as it was originally known, was founded in 1871, two years before Faulkner County was established. Its first church building, completed in 1876, was located on Van Ronkle Street near Oak Street, behind where Fat Daddy’s is today. Seven years later, the building was destroyed by a storm.
In 1885, the cornerstone was laid for a new brick building at the corner of Caldwell and Faulkner streets. In December 1908, however, the church sold that building to the Presbyterian congregation, worshipping in a frame tabernacle while a new church was constructed at the corner of Robinson and Davis.
The new sanctuary was completed in 1910. The building, designed by architect Charles Thompson, was eventually named to the National Register of Historic Places. Eight years after finishing construction, the First Baptist Church congregation achieved one of the most remarkable financial successes. Within ten days, pledges wiped out the $11,300 still owed on the $40,000 building.
In 1925, a three-story education annex was added and the church’s name was changed to First Baptist Church. This was done after the Second Baptist Church was established and started holding services in the old Grand Theater. A second education building was constructed in 1957 and the old education annex was remodeled in 1963.
The sanctuary received a renovation in 1974; the interior was redecorated and a sound booth was added. Services were first audio-taped, but by 1981, services were being televised. The “east building” with a chapel was also added in 1974.
On January 4, 1992, the sanctuary, with its beautiful stained-glass windows, burned, along with the original education building. The cause was said to be a faulty hot water heater in the baptistry. The church’s cornerstone, found in the rubble, contained items from 1910.
Cindy Beckman is a local freelance writer. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org