First Presbyterian Church of Gainesville
Organized in 1867

First Presbyterian Church of Gainesville was founded in 1857, with construction on its first building beginning in 1859. The first pastor, William McCormack (also the pastor at Kanapaha which was founded about the same time) served until 1883 when he died from typhoid fever.

The first church building was close to the center of town, and just a few blocks from its current location. It housed the steeple bell which has moved to their second and third church homes, and is still in use today. When it was installed in 1860, the Meneely Bell called the congregation to worship in the small town of Gainesville. As was common in that time, the building served several congregations for almost 10 years while the Methodists, Episcopalians, and Baptists built their own structures. It was known as a local gathering place, and in 1867 was formally commissioned as a “Presbyterian” church.

Original Sanctuary (1859-1890) and the Meneely Bell

The second sanctuary was built beginning in March 1888 and completed in 1890. It was built out of brick after two devastating fires in downtown Gainesville destroyed most of the wooden buildings. The new church was described in a newspaper article as “a splendid building – an ornament to the city and the denomination – in the modern style of architecture.”

First Presbyterian Church of Gainesville’s 2nd sanctuary (circa 1910 and 1930)

This sanctuary served the congregation until 1954 when the third (and current sanctuary) was built a few blocks away. Prior to starting the third building, the congregation was surveyed in May, 1950 to determine if they preferred to stay in their current location with renovations and additions, or build new facilities a few blocks away. With the church “bursting at the seams” the results were slightly in favor of building new facilities, and construction began on their current sanctuary.

Primary sources: The Bugle newsletter articles from the First Presbyterian Church of Gainesville Archives Committee (Jim Berry and Donald Caton, church archivists)