246 W. West Main Street, Johnson City, TN. West Main Street Christian Church sits on the corner of West Main and Whitney Streets, its home since 1869.
The church was established by Dr. Hezekiah B. Hankal, a leader in the Black community. Of Black and Dutch descent, he was reared in the Dutch home of James and Nancy Hankal until he was 16. He spoke both Dutch and English. Dr. Hankal, a teacher and physician, was ordained to the ministry by the Boones Creek Christian Church.
The building, first wooden, was later bricked by 1955, starting a tradition of meeting on Thanksgiving morning to give thanks and praise to God for its existence.
In the early 1970’s, a fire in the sanctuary resulted in smoke damage. A united effort from faculty of Milligan College, Emmanuel School of Religion and members of the community helped to raise funds to replace and repair the inside of the building. At this time the basement, which had been flooded, was remodeled and made useable again, and a kitchen area was added.
Langston High School, for Black students, had its beginning in the basement of the church before being built on the corner of Myrtle and Elm Streets in 1892.
From the small kitchen in the basement and the kitchens of many area churches, the Loaves and Fishes Saturday meals program began. The meals were served in the annexed Fellowship Hall. This property, an old radiator shop, was acquired, remodeled and connected to the original church building. The church later bought the property behind the church for parking and added the present kitchen, storage room and bathroom.
The building is well used in service for what the congregation believes in God’s plan for the building and 30 members who attend this church. This building is on the National Historical Registry.
Ordained by Boones Creek Christian Church in 1866, Dr. Hezekiah B. Hankal established five churches in the region. A physician, his medical practice was confined to the African-American and the Cherokee-Dutch communities until the 1873 cholera epidemic desegregated his practice. Certified to teach in the public schools by the State of Tennessee in 1873, he served as one of the supervisors of “colored schools.” In 1887 he was elected as an alterman for Johnson City. Dr. Hankal was one of the 1893 founders of Langston Normal School. His house was located on the corner of Market and Montgomery Streets. He is buried in West Lawn Cemetery.
Source: In the Footsteps of Faith: a Tour of 14 of Johnson City’s Century-Old Churches, 2005. Posted 22 Oct 2005