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First Presbyterian Church
125 S. Third St.
Wilmington, NC 28401

(910) 762-6688

The first Presbyterian minister arrived in Wilmington in 1760 to attend an existing gathering of Presbyterians. The Wilmington Protestant Church was incorporated by the state legislature in the corporated by the state legislature in 1785 and it was received into the Fayetteville Presbytery in 1817. This congregation has long had among its members some of the most influential Wilmingtonians, and that remains the case today. The Rev. Joseph R. Wilson was pastor from 1874 until 1885; his son, Thomas Woodrow Wilson, grew up to become slightly more famous.

The church itself, with its finials and soaring stone spire topped with a metal rooster (a symbol of the Protestant Reformation), blends late gothic and Renaissance styles and is the congregation's fourth home, the previous three having succumbed to fire. During the Union occupation, the lectern Bible was stolen from the third church, which burned on New Year's Eve 1925. The stolen Bible was returned years later to become all that remains of the sanctuary. Today, intricate tracery distinguishes fine stained-glass windows along the nave as well as the vast west window and the chancel rose. The 1928 E. M. Skinner organ, with its original pneumatic console, is used regularly. Handsomely stenciled beams, arches and trusses support a steep gabled roof. To one side is the Kenan Chapel, with its transverse Romanesque arches. The education building behind the sanctuary is quintessential Tudor, complete with exterior beams set in stucco, wide squared arches, casement windows with diamond panes, interior ceiling beams and eccentric compound chimneys.

Having undergone major renovation in the early 1990s, First Presbyterian is an impressive sight. Its carillon can be heard daily throughout the historic district.

 

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