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Second Presbyterian Church

Second Presbyterian

Second Presbyterian Church
Virginia Department of Historic Resources


Completed in 1848, Second Presbyterian Church was the first Gothic style church built in a city known for its allegiance to classical architecture. Patterned after a design by Minard Lafever, author of the 1829 publication Young Builder’s General Instructor, the church was enthusiastically described in a local paper of the day as “a great ornament to the city” and “the most perfect and beautiful specimen of Gothic architecture.” Its inspiration is believed to have been Lafever’s “new National Scotch Church” from Plate LXVI depicted in the Instructor. Second Presbyterian was known for many years as “Dr. Hoge’s Church.” Reverend Moses Drury Hoge became pastor of First Presbyterian Church in 1845 and served the congregation for 50 years. He was an inspired orator, and the man who spurred his small congregation to build what was called “the most beautiful church in Virginia.” Stonewall Jackson was among the church’s most distinguished parishioners.

As originally built, the church was a long rectangular building with aisles and galleries running its length on either side. Rooms containing a library and the pastor’s study flanked each side of the pulpit, and at the opposite end of the building was the entrance vestibule with curving stairs leading to the galleries. In 1873, the addition of a 100’ long transept modified its original design (with just a nave). The ceiling was remodeled at this time, and the original paneled galleries were continued into the two transept arms.

Inside the church, an impressive hammer beam ceiling of dark stained wood lends elegance to an otherwise simple interior with plaster walls (painted at one point in time to look like coursed stone) and lancet windows, a feature typical of Gothic architecture. Except that the brick is no longer painted the original gray, the exterior of Second Presbyterian looks very much as it did at the time of its construction in the mid-19th century. The building stands as a landmark on the edge of Richmond’s growing central business district. In 1945, John Knox Press of Richmond published Wyndham B. Blanton’s book The Making of a Downtown Church, which tells the history of Second Presbyterian from 1845 to 1945.

Plan your visit
Second Presbyterian Church is located at 9 North 5th St. and is open to the public. For information, call 804-649-9148 or visit the church's website.
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