Friday, May 17, 2019

First Presbyterian Observes 150th Anniversary this Year

While we consider the prospect of the IKE Box moving the former mortuary building across the street, their prospective new neighbors had their own move in 1958 and this year are celebrating 150 years as an institution.

Moving First Presbyterian Church, October 1958
(Salem Library Historic Photos)
100 years ago, First Presbyterian celebrated a 50th anniversary. It and an entirely different church building was front page news. A piece on May 12th in 1919 notes that
on May 15th this church was established in Salem with a group of 20 charter members...[it was] organized in 1869 as a United Presbyterian church, with Rev. T. J. Wilson as its first pastor, but in the year 1872 it changed its denominational affiliation.
On the 16th they counted more than 200 people at the celebration.

May 16th, 1919
The church building in which they were celebrating during 1919 was built in 1894, and in 1928 when the congregation built their current church (yet on a different site!) the old Presbyterian Church became a Lutheran Church, whose successor is St. Mark Lutheran, whose current church is one of the great mid-century modern buildings in Salem.

The First Presbyterian Church of 1894
When First Pres built the new church in 1928,
this became a Lutheran Church, the predecessor to St. Mark's
(Salem Library Historic Photos)

Same block today: 300 block of Church St NE
Note the window grid on bank building in both photos on left.
The game of musical chairs is amusing, and reminds us that there's a constant churn in downtown and in cities generally. Preservation is important, but we should also take care not to be too attached to a notion of buildings and neighborhoods that tries to freeze them in amber. Cities are dynamic. The real harm is when we don't rebuild and instead leave parking or an empty lot.

The crater at Belluschi Pond - see also new attention on FB
(For more on moving buildings in the downtown area, see the "Moving History" blog. The new site the IKE Box proposes to use formerly hosted the Chamber of Commerce, itself the former house of George Rogers. It burned down in 1997. See here and here.)

They'll be celebrating next month
Back to First Presbyterian, they'll be observing the anniversary formally next month.

1 comment:

Susann Kaltwasser said...

I recall when they moved the First Presbyterian Church. In fact I had a front row seat every day!

I was a student at St Joseph's Grade School across the street from the church in 1958. I could sit at my desk looking out my classroom window and watch them raise the building inch by inch each day on wooden blocks, then put it on big rollers and move it ever so slowly across the street to the new location.

I seem to recall that the whole process took months and at one time it actually blocked the street so we could not park anywhere nearby for Sunday mass.

So many changes in my lifetime!