Less Traveled

Page Ivey

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

Hallowed Ground: First Presbyterian Church Columbia

Posted 11/25/2013 12:03:00 AM

I had the opportunity recently to visit Columbia's First Presbyterian Church. It was for a celebration of a wonderful life ended. But it reminded me what a beautiful historic church First Presbyterian is. 

First Presbyterian was organized in 1795 and lays claim to being the oldest congregation in Columbia, but its current sanctuary was not built until nearly 60 years later.

The distinctive pink (officially reddish-brown) stucco church is in the English Gothic style and has a 180-foot tall spire that still stands out in the skyline despite the tall buildings that have gone up around it. Inside there is a vaulted ribbed ceiling and balcony that runs along all three walls that aren’t the altar. The church has two organs – one at the front and one at the back of the balcony with horizontal pipes instead of vertical.

The graveyard at First Presbyterian started out as the first public burial ground in the city. First Presbyterian shared the graveyard with the local Episcopal congregation until 1814 when First Presbyterian purchased the other half.

The churchyard is a walk through the history of the church, the city and state and the nation.

The church offers a self-guided tour brochure for the churchyard, which includes a broken column from the South Carolina Statehouse that was damaged during the Civil War. It also includes the graves of the University of South Carolina’s first president Jonathan Maxcy (1768-1820), Revolutionary War veteran John Calvert (1734-1803) and Joseph and Jess Wilson, the parents of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson.

The Wilsons, including young Woodrow, lived in Columbia while Joseph Wilson was on the faculty at Columbia Theological Seminary.

The church is listed on the national register of historic places.

The church holds services at 8:30 and 11:15 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Sundays. Services also are held on Wednesday evenings. The graveyard is open during daylight hours for visitors.

The church is at 1324 Marion St., Columbia. Call (803) 799-9062 for more information.