The Work Begins
There was a high amount of interest in the New Orleans area in 1884 when it was learned that the World’s Industrial and Cotton Exposition, which was to last for five months, was to be held there. Adventist leaders appointed a committee to begin preparing how Adventists could make the best impact, since every state, territory, and almost every nation would be represented (Review, 1884). They began by setting up a Mission, which included a free reading-room and served as a distribution center for literature and publications (Yearbook, 1887). A few Adventists came from other states to help distribute publications: Mr. Morrow from Kansas visited the train depots to hand out publications; Mr. Dugan, who was employed by the Texas Conference, visited the ships where he handed out publications; two men came from Ohio to help; and Mr. Daniel Thompson helped while he was in the city. It was reported that “scarcely a ship or boat leaves the wharf without a supply of our publications, and there are usually twenty-five or thirty leaving per week” (Gibbs, 1886). There were only five workers where twenty-five could easily have been employed in the Mission that winter. Provision was made for all workers who came authorized by one of the Conferences, to lodge in tents (Haskell, 1885a). In the spring of 1885, Elder G. K. Owen from the Michigan Conference came to the New Orleans Mission for a few months. He organized the workers to begin holding Bible readings in several different parts of the city, in private homes. The first home where they met, a family of four took a firm stand to keep the Sabbath. Elder Owen also gave Bible readings in the Presbyterian church, gave a talk to the children at the Baptist mission, and had an appointment to hold a Bible reading at the Baptist church on Friday evening. The interest in the Bible readings continued to grow (Owen, 1885a).
1884 World Cotton Expo Exhibit
In addition to the Mission, Adventists also rented an exhibit stand at the World’s Exposition. Hundreds of people stopped at the exhibit daily, many of whom asked questions or came by again for more reading matter. One man from Europe who had an exhibit at the Exposition became interested in the Sabbath from an article in the Signs magazine. He said, “If the seventh-day is the Sabbath, I want to know it and keep it.” A conductor on the M. S. Railroad asked for some of all kinds of tracts so he could distribute them all along his line (Cottrell, 1885).
New Location for the Mission
It was soon realized that the Mission was not in a good location. A number of people said they would come to the Sabbath meetings if they could invite their friends “with some degree of courage.” A man who saw their need took it upon himself to rent a good house for the mission, located at 1270 St. Charles Street. The rent was fifty dollars per month, and the man, who wished to remain anonymous, paid it in advance for four months. He also furnished it with items the Mission needed. A lady who had been attending the Bible readings made a donation of bedding for the Mission. The house consisted of eleven rooms, two of which were sixteen-foot by eighteen-foot, with double doors between them that could be opened to provide a sixteen-foot by thirty-two foot lecture room (Haskell, 1885b). Interests continued to grow and soon five more took their stand for the truth. (Owen, 1885b).
New Orleans First Seventh-day Adventist Church
New Orleans Church Organized in 1885
By mid-May 1885, twenty-five people had pledged to follow the Adventist message. Elder Owen stated that the prospect was good for a Seventh-day Adventist church in New Orleans, that twelve had been baptized in Lake Pontchartrain, and several others would soon follow. After the Exposition ended, some of the Sabbath-keepers left the city, but about fifteen remained and they began having regular Sabbath meetings (Owen, 1885c). Later that year they were organized as the New Orleans Seventh-day Adventist church. One of the charter member families was Samuel Johnstone and his four daughters. Samuel’s grandson, Arthur Stumpf, was a long-time member of the church and his great-grandson, Charles Stumpf, is still a member (as of September 2019) (Lyman, 2001). When Elder Robert M. Kilgore, superintendent of the Southern states, visited New Orleans in the summer of 1890, he reported that the regular place of worship was in a small public hall on Magazine and Phillip Streets. He also noted that few of the charter members he had met five years earlier were still attending, some having moved away, while others were no longer observing the Adventist truth (Kilgore, 1890).
A New Church in 1914
In 1907, the church in New Orleans began meeting in the chapel of the Louisiana Conference headquarters at 810 Jackson Avenue (Times-Democrat, 1907). Seven nationalities were represented by their congregation. Committees were appointed to oversee the missionary work done for the English, French, Germans, Italians, Norwegians, Swedes, Spanish, Danes, Greeks, Jews, and Chinese in their city. The church grew until it became evident that a larger place must be secured. In 1914, the congregation bought property in a good part of the city, the corner of Melpomene and Coliseum Streets. This was well-suited to their needs, and the building was dedicated free from debt on Sunday, March 22, 1914 (Parmele, 1914). Seven weeks of meetings held from March 30 to June 6, 1920, increased the membership and suddenly the church was too small to comfortably accommodate the members. Plans were immediately made to sell the church and build a new one (Worker, 1920). In 1924, the congregation bought the property of the Annunciation Episcopal church at Camp and Race Streets. The Sunday school building which adjoined the church was the original home of the Magazine Street Methodist Episcopal church (Times-Picayune, 1937).
A New Church in 1939
Early in 1938, the New Orleans church and school were moved to temporary quarters at 1308 Washington Avenue. All the activities took place from that location until a new church to be located at 3500 St. Charles Avenue was in readiness. The old buildings were demolished (Record, 1938). Construction of the new church building was started on August 10, 1938. On Sabbath, September 9, 1939, the new church was dedicated. Substantial gifts from non-Seventh-day Adventists had been given to help with the building project (Pound, 1939).
A New Church in 1974
In June 1973, it was voted to sell the property on St. Charles Street and the church purchased property in Metairie (Minutes, 1973). Sabbath, May 11, 1974, was the first Sabbath for the members of the New Orleans church to meet in their new sanctuary, which had a seating capacity of approximately 500. Their new church, renamed the New Orleans First church, was located on West Esplanade Avenue in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans. It was dedicated July 13, 1974 (Sherrill, 1974).
One Hundred Years: 1984 Louisiana World Expo Exhibit
One hundred years after the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition, New Orleans again held a World Exposition. It opened on Saturday, May 12, 1984, and ended on Sunday, November 11, 1984. Its theme was “The World of Rivers—Fresh Waters as a Source of Life” (Wikipedia, 2019). Thanks to the vision of Marvel Sundin and her assistant, Henrietta Stumpf, and their faithful committee of laymen, the Seventh-day Adventist church had a beautiful exhibit at the New Orleans World’s Fair. Over 120,000 people came and saw the Adventist Living Water Theater, a very effective multimedia presentation of the plan of salvation. The Living Water Theater was recognized as one of the best religious exhibits at the Fair (Leach, 1985). During the first eight weeks 40,000 persons visited the booth and received 80,000 pieces of literature (Review, 1984). Marvel Sundin, Ph.D., executive director of the project (Bendall, 1984), generated nearly $600,000 to create this dynamic outreach (Leach, 1985).
Hurricane Katrina was a Category 5 hurricane that made landfall in August 2005, hitting New Orleans and the surrounding areas particularly hard, causing catastrophic damage. The New Orleans First church sustained heavy water and wind damage during the hurricane. The New Orleans First, New Orleans Spanish, and Metairie Spanish churches all met together at the Metairie Spanish church until repairs could be completed on the two that were damaged as a result of the hurricane (Orian, 2005). At the First church, the floors and walls up to four feet had to be stripped to remove the damaged carpet, sheetrock, and furniture (Trevino, 2005).
New Orleans Central Seventh-day Adventist Church
New Orleans Italian Church Organized in 1932
The New Orleans Central church originated as the New Orleans Italian church. This is how it happened. In the 1920s, Frank D’Ingianni began working faithfully in the New Orleans area, sharing the three angels’ message with all who would listen. By 1932 we had a small Italian church in New Orleans of nine members. They held their meetings in the home of Martin Davis at 1226 Chartres Street. Mr. Davis was our Italian worker there and he had fixed up the front room for a place of worship. They had a little rostrum and pulpit in one corner and benches for the people who came. With some suitable pictures on the walls and other decorations the room was made very attractive. They also had an organ which was a great help with the music. The Sabbath school attendance was twenty-two. When they had a visiting minister present they had the preaching service first followed by the Sabbath school so the visitor could go over to the English church and preach at eleven o’clock. Mr. Davis worked hard to give the message to the many Italians in New Orleans (Montgomery, 1932). Later the members were able to purchase a church building in which to meet. The Italian church was dedicated on December 7, 1940 (Record, 1940).
Franklin Avenue Church
In 1950 the Italian church sold their building and purchased a lot in a very desirable section of the city on Franklin Avenue. It was not only a desirable section of the city, but in the new location they were within reach of some of the finest Italian families of the city. The plan was to build the Sabbath school rooms first and arrange them so they could be used for an evangelistic meeting (Sanders, 1950). In the spring of 1952 construction began for the new church. The name was changed to the Franklin Avenue church (Manzella, 1996). After six years of labor and sacrifice, on December 7, 1957, more than 400 members and friends were present for the dedication of the Franklin Avenue church (Morton, 1958).
New Orleans Central Church
In 1971, the church was at its peak with a membership of 230, and it became necessary to hold two Sabbath services. However, as other new churches and companies were formed in the New Orleans area, members transferred out to Slidell, Houma, Chalmette and Westbank. In May 1977, the church’s name was changed to New Orleans Central church. As the membership continued to decline it became difficult to support a viable program. The church was finally sold in June 1995, with December 30, 1995, being the final commemoration Sabbath with guest speakers and a special program (Manzella, 1996).
(1884, Jun. 3). Review and Herald, p. 367.
(1887). Yearbook of the Seventh-day Adventist Denomination. Washington, D. C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, p. 12.
(1907, Oct. 19). Seventh Day Adventists. Times-Democrat, p. 16.
(1913, Mar. 11). An Adventist Revival. Ibid., p. 16.
(1920, Jul. 1). Southern Union Worker, p. 3.
(1929, Oct. 9). Ibid., p. 5.
(1938, Apr. 13). Southwestern Union Record, p. 3.
(1939, Sep. 10). Adventists Hold Dedication Rites for New Church. Times-Picayune, p. 16.
(1940, Nov. 20) Southwestern Union Record, p. 3.
(1955, Dec. 21). Ibid., p. 7.
(1973, Jun. 5). Minutes of the Board of Trustees of the Arkansas Conference Association. Shreveport, LA: Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of SDA.
(1984, Dec. 27). Review and Herald, p. 7.
(2019, Jun. 2). 1984 Louisiana World Exposition. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org.
Bendall, R. W. (1984, Jun. 21). Southwestern Union Record, pp. 12A, B.
Cottrell, H. W. (1885, Apr. 21). Review and Herald, p. 245.
Haskell, S. N. (1885a, Feb. 17). Ibid., p. 107.
Ibid. (1885b, Mar. 31). p. 197.
Kilgore, R. M. (1890, Jun. 3), Ibid., p. 348.
Leach, B. E. (1985, Apr. 11). Southwestern Union Record, p. 12B.
Lyman, Janet Stumpf. (2001, Sep. 1). Ibid., p. 9.
Manzella, Richard. (1996, Mar. 1). Ibid., p. 19.
Montgomery, R. P. (1932, May 11). Ibid., p. 2.
Morton, Curtis R. (1958, Feb. 12). Ibid., p. 6.
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). (1922, Mar. 28). Washington D.C.; Roll #: 1874. Certificate: 134101.
Orian, Stephen. (2005, Nov. 1). Southwestern Union Record, p. 16.
Owen, G. K. (1885a, Mar. 24). Review and Herald, p. 190.
Ibid. (1885b, Apr. 7). p. 222.
Ibid. (1885c, Aug. 25). p. 541.
Parmele, R. W. (1914, Apr. 2). Southern Union Worker, p. 109.
Paternostro, Mrs. John. (1959, Sep. 16). Southwestern Union Record, p. 7.
Pound, I. C. (1939, Sep. 27). Ibid., p. 3.
Sanders, F. O. (1950, Oct. 4). Ibid., p. 1.
Sherrill, E. Frank. (1974, Jun. 8). Ibid., p. 10.
Trevino, Max. (2005, Dec. 1). Ibid., pp. 4-7.