First Presbyterian Church of Nashville Established 1816

First Presbyterian Church of Nashville Before 1831 (First church building)

First Presbyterian Church of Nashville Circa 1920 (Third and current church building)

Presbyterians have worshiped at the corner of Fifth and Church since 1816. In that year the First Presbyterian Church of Nashville built their first structure. After the Battle of New Orleans, the State of Tennessee presented General Andrew Jackson with a ceremonial sword on the front steps of the church. It survived until a fire destroyed it in 1832. Rebuilding in that year, on the same site, the second building hosted the Inauguration of James K. Polk as Governor of Tennessee. That building burned down in 1848. The congregation then hired the Philadelphia architect William Strickland, who was in Tennessee to design and supervise the construction of the Tennessee State Capitol building, to design the present building. During the Civil War the building was seized by the United States government, and used as a hospital. Receiving reparations after the war, the congregation began the process of finishing the interior and exterior of the structure. When it was built, the congregation had only about 350 members, but they had built a space to seat over 1000 and they ran out of money to finish the building. The columns were put in place in 1871, as well as the entablature. In 1880 the interior was reconfigured, and decorated. The organ was enlarged in 1914, to 2,100 pipes, with an antiphonal organ and chimes, During the great floods of 1927 and 1937 flood victims were sheltered in the church. Soldiers on leave in Nashville during World War II, slept in the church by the thousands during that war. By 1954, the First Church congregation was thinking of leaving the city, and moving out to the suburbs. By vote they did so, and through the encouragement of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and local efforts, they were convinced not to tear down the building for a parking garage site. Instead, they were prevailed upon to sell it to their own members who did not wish to leave Nashville. In 1955 The Downtown Presbyterian Church was formed. It has continued to minister to the needs of the city from this prime location.


3 thoughts on “First Presbyterian Church of Nashville Established 1816

  1. CBarker

    Hi,I am with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Your blog offers thoughtful insights into the history of Nashville and how it relates to the present city. As the National Trust is coming to Nashville for our National Preservation Conference in October, I'd love to get in touch with you and see if you'd like to attend any of our sessions. If you're interested, you can get in touch with me via email ( or phone (202.588.6125). I hope to hear from you soon and, either way, keep telling Nashville's wonderful story! Cheers,Caroline BarkerMedia Relations, National Trust for Historic Preservation

  2. William

    A very minor correction: in 1855 a pipe organ was built for this church by the company E. & G.G. Hook of Boston Mass. That organ was removed and sold to the First Presbyterian Church in Gallatin Tennessee in 1914. Significant parts of the Egyptian style organ case can still be seen there, though the pipes, mechanism and console are wholly new from 2007. Nashville's First Presbyterian church got a completely new pipe organ – with new Egyptian style casework, built by Austin Organs of Hartford Connecticut in 1914. That organ – much altered – is still in the church today. Refer to the Organ Historical Society on-line database.


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