Location: Corner of Pennsylvania and New York streets.
The First Presbyterian Church is one of the religious landmarks of this city, and with its early history is associated the early history of Presbyterianism in this State. The foundation of this church society was half a century ago, when this was the "Far West," and when the church was following closely in the footsteps of pioneer civilization. Of those who took an active part in the organization of this church there yet remain a very few to tell the story of its early history.
In 1820, the future city of Indianapolis was mapped out and its lots offered for sale. In August of 1821 Rev. Ludlow G. Gaines preached the first Presbyterian sermon in the city, in a grove south of the present State House square. In 1822, Rev. David C. Proctor, of Connecticut, was engaged as a missionary for one year.
In 1823 a subscription of $1,200 was raised and a house of worship erected on Pennsylvania street, near the corner of Market. On the 5th of July of the same year, a Presbyterian church was organized and the names of fifteen members enrolled.
In 1842, a second house of worship was erected on Pennsylvania street, near the corner of Market and Circle streets, at a cost of $8,300, and on the 6th of May, 1843, it was dedicated.
In 1864, the foundations of the present church edifice were laid. The chapel, containing a lecture room, a social room, Sabbath-School rooms and pastor's study, was erected and opened for service in 1866. The present audience room was opened for service December 29th, 1870.
Since the organization of the society in 1823, a period of nearly 47 years, the congregation was built three church edifices and one mission church--now the Seventh Presbyterian Church--and has had the following pastors: Rev. Geo. Bush, Rev. John R. Moreland, Rev. James W. McKennan, Rev. Phineas D. Gurley, D.D., Rev. John A. McClung, D. D., Rev. Thomas Cunningham, D.D., Rev. J. Howard Nixon, and Rev. R. D. Harper, D.D. Dr. Harper recently resigned the pastorate to accept a call from Philadelphia, and the church authorities have not, at this writing, selected his successor.
The only surviving pastors are Rev. Dr. Cunningham, of San Francisco; Rev. J. Howard Nixon, of Springfield, Missouri, and Rev. Dr. Harper, of Philadelphia.
At different intervals the following persons have served the church with great acceptance as stated supply: Rev. Ludlow G. Gaines, Rev. David C. Proctor, Rev. Isaac Reed, Rev. William A. Holliday, Rev. Samuel Fulton, Rev. Charles S. Mills and Rev. J. F. Dripps.
The following persons have served as elders in this church from its organization until the present time: Dr. Isaac Coe, Caleb Scudder, John Johnson, Ebenezer Sharpe, John G. Brown, Col. James Blake, Hon. Samuel Bigger, George S. Brandon, Charles Axtell, H. C. Newcomb, James M. Ray, Thomas H. Sharpe, William Sheets, Thomas McIntire, General Benjamin Harrison, Myron A. Stowell and William R. Craig.
In December, 1838, fifteen members of this church were granted letters of dismission to organize the Second Presbyterian Church of this city; and in 1851, thirteen years subsequently, letters of dismission were granted to twenty-one persons, including three Elders, Caleb Scudder, James Blake and H. C. Newcomb, to organize the Third Presbyterian Church of this city. These little bands, who separated from the parent society have grown into full, well-equipped organizations, and are doing good service in the cause of Christianity.
The church has a membership of three hundred and fifty one. The Sabbath-School has four hundred and twenty-five members. The principal officers of the church are:
Ruling Elders--James M. Raym Thos. H. Sharpe, Wm. Sheets, Thos. McIntire, M. A. Stowell, Benj. Harrison, Robert Browning, James W. Brown, Jere. McLene, Isaac C. Hays, H. L. Walker, A. M. Benham.
Deacons--Wm. J. Johnston, J. A. Vinnedge, Henry D. Carlisle, E. P. Howe, Carlos Dickson, Charles Latham.
Trustees--E. B. Martindale, Robert Browning, James W. Brown, William Braden, Upton J. Hammond. Superintendent of Sabbath School, E. B. Martindale.
The church edifice is in the Gothic style of architecture, and is an artistic and elegant structure. The main building, sixty by one hundred feet, fronts on Pennsylvania street; and in the rear, on New York street, is the chapel building, fifty by seventy-five feet. The audience room, in its design and appointments, is one of the finest in the country. Its pews are arranged in curved lines; the windows are of beautiful stained glass; the ceiling is very ornamental, "rather finished," and finely frescoed. The tower is one hundred and seventy-six feet in height.
The building is built of pressed brick, trimmed with dressed stone. The chapel is divided into three rooms: two for social meetings, and one for the pastor's study. The second story contains the Sabbath-School room. The dimensions of the building are sixty-five by one hundred and fifty-five feet. The cost of building and site was $164,117.74.
Holloway, W. R., Indianapolis, a Historical and Statistical Sketch of the Railroad City, a Chronicle of Its Social, Municipal, Commercial and Manufacturing Progress, with Full Statistical Tables, © 1870, pp. 207-208.