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BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The First Presbyterian Church, located at 200 W. Trade Street, Charlotte, is an impressive religious complex designed in the Gothic Revival style. Occupying an entire city block in the center of Charlotte, the church with its auxiliary buildings and expansive lawn - all surrounded by an ironwork fence - commands today as it has since the midnineteenth century a prominent visual as well as spiritual presence in the community.

The present fabric of the First Presbyterian Church complex spans the century from 1857-1961. Throughout the growth of this complex, the Gothic Revival style has been retained, so that while some of the structures are obviously of more recent vintage than others, as a whole they form a visually compatible group.

The oldest fabric remaining dates from the second church structure on the site, which was erected in 1857. The first building, constructed between 1818 and 1823 had been a multidenominational church although those of Presbyterian persuasion apparently formed the predominant group. In 1841 the property was deeded to the Presbyterians, who had been officially organized in 1832. By the 1850s the congregation had outgrown the first brick church, and in 1857 the second church structure was erected on the site at a cost of about $13,000. This Gothic Revival structure was constructed of bricks covered with stucco and painted in imitation of cut stone. Measuring 50 x 80 feet with balconies along both sides and across the rear, this building boasted a steeple which rose to a height of 187 feet. In 1883-1884 it was necessary to rebuild the spire, and this, along with the 1857 facade, narthex and tower remain as part of the present church building.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR

  • Having trouble identifying brick patterns, shingle patterns, or other parts? See the Illustrated Guidebook for help!
  • Both the main church and the 18941895 Sunday School building are of brick construction covered with stucco to give the impression of stone. The Gothic style is strongly stated in the lancet windows (many of which are filled with stained glass), side and corner buttresses, crenellated parapets, and towers and spires capped by pinnacles decorated with crockets and finials. Adding to the overall quality of design, the steeply pitched roofs feature patterned bands of square and roundcut slate shingles.

    ACTIVITIES

    At the site...

  • Note the examples of Gothic architecture on the building: pointed arches, tracery (in the windows, for instance), crenellation, buttresses, and others. Sketch characteristics of the Gothic style and label them.
  • Sketch the steeple and label details you see on it.
  • Turn around and look across Trade Street. Notice the tall skyscraper. Though much larger and more modern that the church, it tries to blend in to the built environment around it by emphasizing the vertical (like Gothic buildings) and having a steeply pointed roof topped with a Gothic-inspired spire.This is a more sensitive way to build in an established area - including the modern offices without ignoring the context of the built and natural environment that surrounds them. As you take your tour, look for and note examples of development that blend into the existing built environment and those that do not.

    On your own...

  • Compare First Presbyterian Church with other Gothic Revival churches you have seen on the tour. Look for these characteristics as points of comparison: building material, spires (are there any and, if so, where are they placed?), towers (are there any and, if so, where are they placed?), windows (size, shape, location, type of tracery), stone or brick patterns (identify each pattern). Compare this church with these: St. Peter's Episcopal, Grace AME Zion, First United Presbyterian, and First United Methodist Church. You'll notice that there is quite a variety of buildings under the Gothic Revival umbrella!
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