Places

The History of Downtown Presbyterian Church

When you visit the Downtown Presbyterian Church, you are always welcome. There are no exceptions to that policy.

Worshippers have come to the corner of Church and Fifth since 1814 to connect with their faith. After the Battle of New Orleans, a ceremonial sword was given to Andrew Jackson on the front steps of the original building. It was unfortunately destroyed by a fire in 1832.

A second building hosted the inauguration of James K. Polk when he became governor of the state. It burned down in 1848.

The U.S. government seized the third building during the Civil War, using the facility as a hospital. After receiving reparations when the conflict was over, the congregation began the work of finishing the current building.

In 1955, the Church Split into Two Congregations

Several notable events occurred during the 20th century, including the Downtown Presbyterian Church enlarging their organ to 2,100 pipes in 1914. It became a place where people could shelter, and even soldiers on leave during World War II came here to sleep peacefully.

In 1954, the congregation held a vote to leave for the suburbs. Through the efforts of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and some members who didn’t want to leave, the building wasn’t torn down. It was sold to those who wanted to stay, and that’s how the arrangement remains to this day.

The Downtown Presbyterian Church formed after that transaction, continuing to serve the needs of the city from its prime location. On the 150th anniversary of the structure, the congregation redid the lighting and ceiling, modernizing the sky panels to give it an open feeling.

As part of the renovation, an art gallery was incorporated into the building. It’s open on Sunday mornings, the first Saturday of the month, and by appointment.