Serving the heart of West Chester for 180+ years
In April of 1831, The Rev. William A. Stevens was assigned as organizing Pastor for a group of Chester County citizens of Presbyterian Ancestry. The cornerstone for this new church was laid on July 3, 1832. However, the building went on more slowly than was expected and it was not covered until the summer of 1833. Not until January 1834 was it in a condition to be occupied for public worship. A Sabbath School Society was organized on July 22, 1832. Public worship was held in the church for the first time on January 7, 1834 with 52 original members.
On January 15, 1834, the charter was obtained from the Supreme Court of the United States incorporating the program as “The First Presbyterian Church of the Borough of West Chester.” The church design was the first commission of Thomas U. Walter, America’s preeminent Greek revival architect, who later designed the dome of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
In the 1840’s the small congregation began to grow and reach out. Things went so well that by 1861-62, the church was overflowing and an addition was added during the ministry of Rev. William E. Moore. The old Sunday School Chapel was constructed in 1893, where our educational facilities now stand. In 1905 a much larger pipe organ was constructed and new stained glass windows were added. The organ was electrified in 1934.
Additional property was purchased from 1955-57 to add the present educational facility where the old Chapel had stood. In 1962 the Kell Memorial Organ was installed in memory of a beloved pastor, the Rev. J. Garrett Kell, and changes were made in the Chancel area. New pews were added in 1966.
The church continued to grow, stretching all existing facilities for education and ministering. The church undertook a major renovation program in 1986 connecting the original sanctuary to the education building. The congregation undertook a similar renovation and expansion in 1995, adding an elevator, classroom space, air-conditioning and remodeling throughout the building.
Plans for a cupola (or steeple) were in Walter’s original design for First Presbyterian Church, according to an issue of the Chester County Democrat of West Chester from July 10, 1832, which reads, “The architecture is Grecian, in good taste, and there is to be a cupola, if our funds will admit, 73 feet in height from the ground.” In August 2013 — 181 years after the cornerstone of First Presbyterian Church of West Chester was laid — the originally intended steeple to this historic landmark was added. It essentially doubled the overall height of the building to the height of 73 feet as originally planned in 1832.
The strengths of the congregation are worship and music, mission outreach, education, ministry to its youth and families, and its preschool program. The building now known as The First Presbyterian Church has continued to grow and meet the religious needs of the surrounding communities for nearly 190 years.