Thee We Dedicate This House”
is the declaration made by the congregation of 172 members on February
9, 1875, when Second Presbyterian Church was established.
The Rev. Heber A. Ketchum,
former assistant minister of First Presbyterian Church, became the
first minister of the new, uptown church. He held this post until
1884. Members of the first session were Dr. P.J. Kline, Dr. H.A.
Ketchum, Oliver McCall, T.M. Patterson, Dr. C.P. Dennis, Dr. J.B. Bing
and Irving Drew.
first Sunday School Day was on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1875.
The school grew dramatically. Many prominent citizens of
Portsmouth were officers and teachers. In what is likely the
largest attendance recorded for a worship service, 1076 were present
on Easter Sunday, April 23, 1916.
Fire on June 9, 1895,
severely damaged the main auditorium and totally destroyed the contents.
This was followed by a mysterious explosion on July 18, 1896, that
blew out many windows.
became necessary for the growing church.
Membership of 1030 was listed as of April 1, 1911.
In 1910 a temporary tabernacle was raised on the Waller Street
side of the site and used for services while a new building was under
construction. The newest
edifice, of Hummelstown brownstone, was dedicated December 3, 1911.
The architecture was a fine example of Tudor or Collegiate Gothic, the
tower being a copy of the church of the Magdalene at Oxford, England.
The auditorium windows designed and erected by the
Horace I. Phipps Company of Boston were among the most beautiful in
the country, created with stained glass imported from various
countries and consisting of over 182 different colors. The central
subject of all the windows is Christ.
During this time, mission
work was being accomplished in Buena Vista, Sandy Springs, Rome, Twin
Creek, Blue Creek and other surrounding areas.
A fiftieth Jubilee
Anniversary was held in an outstanding service in February 1925,
during the pastorate of Dr. William H. Phelps.
Early in the morning of
September 27, 1933, a disastrous fire destroyed the church,
leaving only the wall, the bell tower, and a few of the exquisite
windows, which are now in the chapel. Throughout all of the
disasters the membership, as well as the city, rallied in support of
the committee appointed by the Session to remedy the damage.
Even before the fires were out, cleaning, refurbishing and rebuilding
were underway. The majestic Collegiate Gothic brownstone, as we
know it today, was dedicated March 4, 1935, with the Rev. Dunbar H.
Ogden as officiating minister.
The 75th year
was celebrated under the direction of the Rev. Arthur Cruickshank,
with both First and Central Presbyterian Churches joining in the
celebration. Dr. Howard R. Lowry, then President of Wooster
College, addressed the congregation.
anniversary was a yearlong Jublilee Celebration with the Rev. Wayne
Lowry, minister, as leader. Numerous serious and fun activities
for congregation and community were included.
We honored our 50-year members at the 125th Anniversary in a Homecoming Celebration under the direction of Rev. Stanley Webster. Marj Carpenter, best-selling author for the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, regaled the
congregation with colorful, homespun stories about her visits to more than 600 mission stations in 130 countries.
In October 1981, the Board
of Deacons opened God’s Pantry in the church to serve the community by providing
food for the needy. This effort has received the support of many
churches and organizations in the community as well as steady support
of the congregation. It is staffed by volunteers and during
the year 1999, provided groceries for approximately 6,000 families.
1984 an extensive three-year renovation program was completed.
The love and pride felt for the church was evident in the cooperation
and support shown by the congregation in this effort.
Organ music has been an
integral part of services as long as there has been a church.
The Second Presbyterian Church organ is a custom-built St. Louis,
Missouri, Kilgen organ of 2555 pipes, specifically constructed to fit
the acoustical and architectural properties of our church. In
1995 the congregation successfully conducted a campaign to raise funds
for restoration and maintenance of this remarkable instrument.
fundraising campaign, conducted in 1998, resulted in the restoration
and preservation of the church’s stained glass windows. The work was
completed over a two-year period.
A familiar sound over the
city on Sunday morning is the pealing of the Second Presbyterian
Church bell, calling residents to worship and rededication. Inscribed
on the yoke of the bell is Psalm 150:6.
“Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord.
Praise ye the Lord!”
In 1996, Second Presbyterian Church
became registered as a National Historic Site.
historic significance of our building is architecture and engineering,
specifically the periods from 1900-1924 and 1925-1949 inclusive.