Friday, June 10, 2016


Early postcard view of First Presbyterian Church.  (

With its tall steeple and classic Colonial Revival design, First Presbyterian Church dominates the north end of Waynesburg’s system of parks. Both the building and the parks take their inspiration from colonial New England. 

Early 20th century view of the Waynesburg Commons from West Park.  On the left is the future site of First Presbyterian Church with Miller Hall, the administration building of Waynesburg College, in the background.  (

Originally called the “Commons,” the parks date to the beginning of Waynesburg in 1796 when they were laid out as commonly-owned grazing lands. Today they continue to be one of the most beloved features of the town. 

Photo taken soon after First Presbyterian Church was completed. The dome of Miller Hall is in the background.(
Equally admired is the pure beauty of First Presbyterian Church, designed in 1925 by prominent Boston architects, Smith and Walker. Because they were from Massachusetts and graduates of Harvard, it’s easy to understand their choice of the Colonial Revival style for the building and its placement on a terrace overlooking the park, which would have been called “the village green” in New England.

Shortly after designing Waynesburg's First Presbyterian Church, architect Philip Horton Smith saved Salem's Old Town Hall from demolition.  It had been built in 1816-17. (

By the turn of the 20th century, the Colonial Revival had become a popular architectural style, prompted by nostalgia for the founding years of the American Republic. It copied the symmetry and classical ornamentation of early Georgian and Federal style buildings.  As Colonial Revival continued to grow in popularity, it inspired not only new construction, but also restoration of historic places such as in Williamsburg, VA; Salem, MA, and Independence Hall in Philadelphia. 

Architect Philip Horton Smith designed the Salem Post Office in 1932. (
The lead architect of First Presbyterian was Philip Horton Smith, a native of Salem, MA. Throughout his career, he spearheaded preservation efforts in Salem, and elsewhere in New England, as well as designing many new buildings compatible with historic sites. 

Interior of Tabernacle Church in Salem, MA, designed two years before First Presbyterian Waynesburg by the same architect.  (Tabernacle Church website)

Interior of First Presbyterian Church, Waynesburg, today.
Another view, looking toward the balcony.

Just two years before he received the commission for Waynesburg’s First Presbyterian, Smith had designed a new building for Tabernacle Church in Salem. It was a replica of their earlier church of 1777 that had been a copy of London’s “Tabernacle” made famous by preacher George Whitfield who had frequently visited Salem. There are many similarities in design between Tabernacle and First Presbyterian, both inside and out, except the exterior of Tabernacle is stone, a more common building material in New England. 

Wellesley (Mass.) Congregational Church, built 1918-1922, was designed in the Colonial Revival style by prominent architects Carrere and Hastings. It may have inspired Philip Horton Smith's design of the Salem and Waynesburg churches. (

When the cornerstone of the Waynesburg church was laid in September, 1925, local newspapers reported that the architect attended, and stayed the next day to “show the masons the methods used in colonial times of laying brick so that in all details the design will be carried out.” They also reported that the building was to be “of pure American colonial design and will resemble Independence Hall in Philadelphia”.  

Another early view of Waynesburg's First Presbyterian Church.  (

A two-story, temple-like portico with pediment and Doric columns fronts the First Presbyterian design. The portico shelters three recessed doorways that lead to the sanctuary, each with a pair of paneled doors topped by fanlight and denticulated cornice. Above each doorway is a window, the center one being Palladian in style. 

The Richhill Street elevation of First Presbyterian Church, Waynesburg. 
On the side elevations, there are tall, arched windows with cornerstones. A side entrance facing Richhill Street mirrors the front with portico, Doric columns and paneled doors. However, here the fanlight is elliptical.

Rising above the town, the steeple is composed of four parts. A square, brick tower with wheel windows sits on the sanctuary roof. Above it, a square belfry and octagonal lantern are built of wood with Colonial ornamentation and arched window openings, painted white, and surrounded by two balustrades. In proper New England fashion, a weather vane sits atop the spire. 


There were two types of Presbyterian congregations in Waynesburg in the 19th century, Cumberland and Mainstream. The older and larger group was Cumberland Presbyterian, established in 1831. Two years later, they erected their first building on the south edge of the Commons, known as the "brick church on the hill." They founded Waynesburg College in 1849, and in 1866, built a larger brick church on West High Street where the Dollar Store parking lot is now located. Here's what their buildings looked like: 

This view is dated ca. 1865, shortly before the second Cumberland Church was erected. In the distance on the left is the first building of Waynesburg College, later named Hanna Hall. (

This was the second building of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Waynesburg.  It was demolished in 1941. (

A mainstream Presbyterian Church was established in Waynesburg in 1842 with 18 members, incorporated in 1848. Their first house of worship, built in 1850, was a frame structure on North Morris Street. In 1880, they built a substantial Gothic-style brick church on Church Street, giving the streets its name. In 1893-94, it was expanded the building and decorated the interior with new lights and hand-painted frescoes.

The first building of the mainstream Presbyterian congregation is shown on the right, facing North Morris Street.  On its left is the 3-story Walton Hotel that stood at the corner with West High Streets.  Today, the site of both buildings is a borough parking lot.  (

Erected in 1880, the second building of the mainstream Presbyterian congregation stood on Church Street. The 60-foot addition to the left of the tower was added in 1893-94. (Photo by W. T. Hays; greene

Early 20th century view of the interior of the Presbyterian Church on Church Street.  (

After the congregations merged in late 1906, they conducted worship services on Church Street and Sunday School and other activities in the former Cumberland building on West High Street. The united congregation decided to build anew in 1922, and broke ground for the present building in September 1925. Three months later, the building on Church Street was destroyed in the Downey House Fire when sparks were blown by strong winds over the Court House onto their roof. After the fire, they returned to the former Cumberland Presbyterian building on West High Street for worship services until the new building was completed in October 1926.

The Presbyterian Church on Church Street was destroyed in the Downey House Fire of December 1925. The lot remained vacant until 1939 when the Democrat Messenger Building was erected. (Wilmington, DE newspaper;