First Presbyterian Church in
View of present church building looking north west. Painting by
The Presbyterian presence was evident and at work in the early
1840’s. On July 28, 1856, the first regular meeting of the
Citizens of Lower Saginaw was held for the purpose of organizing a
Presbyterian Church. The name of the organization was chosen: The
first Presbyterian Society of Lower Saginaw. The first meeting of
the Society, as an organized church, was on September 5, 1856. The
first members included two men and six women. After meeting in Birney Hall and sometimes in a court room, funds were raised in 1861
for the first Presbyterian Church building, located between 9th and
10th Streets on the east side of Washington Avenue, across from a
grove of trees the Indians sometimes used as a campground. A short
time after its completion and dedication, in the midst of a
communion service, it took fire and was burned. The building was
totally lost in the presence of a sorrowing congregation. Through
energetic efforts, a new church was built on Washington Street
opposite City Hall. Its dedication took place December 25, 1863.
The congregation worshiped there until our present site was
purchased in 1883. The cornerstone was laid July 23, 1891 and the
church was dedicated July 6, 1893.
An old newspaper states, “This edifice was dedicated June 4, 1893,
that total cost of the ground, buildings and furniture being
$105,000. The structure is of Ionia sandstone and the
auditorium affords sittings for 1,100 persons. There is a
spacious chapel at the rear, with Sabbath-school rooms, ladies
parlors and apartments for Bible classes. Underneath the chapel is a
large dining room, with kitchen, pantries, and toilet rooms.
The interior finish of the auditorium and chapel is of quartered
white oak, and the church, in its architecture, construction and
appointments, is one of the most elegant and commodious houses of
worship in the State.”
In 1941 the church was remodeled,
rededicated and completely refurbished for its 50th Anniversary. In
the chancel, a magnificent organ of over 4000 pipes was installed.
In 1958 a 28,000 square foot addition of 56 rooms including a
nursery, classrooms, kitchen, fellowship hall, parlor, offices,
study and chapel was added at the cost of $670,000.
The Gothic style building which contains the Sanctuary was once
again restored to its original Victorian beauty in an extensive
renovation project beginning in 1979. The aging organ was replaced
by a Casavant Freres Pipe organ in 1983. It was specifically
designed for our sanctuary and has 38 stops, 54 ranks of pipes, over
3000 pipes. Today this building houses: the choir room, Heritage
Parlor, the Wheel and several meeting rooms.
A history, a tradition, a building are but a part of the First
Presbyterian Church. The strength of our church is its people.
In 1999 the church embarked upon a “Keeping the Covenant and Leaving
a Legacy” campaign. The 2 million construction project made major
improvements to entrance ways, the commons and courtyard, stained
glass, exterior stone restoration, construction of an elevator, roof
repairs, technology upgrades and more.
The church building was listed on the State Registry of Historic
Sites in May of 2001.
The First Presbyterian Church of Bay City is more than statistics,
more than a beautiful building, more than organizations and
activities. It is a story part of a larger history. It is a covenant
community which has contributed to the nurture of countless lives,
and the development of our community. For nearly 150 years our
ministry has been one that distinguished itself in service to the
Bay County area and beyond with a sense of resiliency, fortitude,
foresight, focus and faithfulness.
Our history is not something complete, concluded and closed, but the
corpus from and for which we continue. It is an important part of
our story. A rich, proud and fruitful heritage forms a firm
foundation for continuing ministry in Christ’s name and ever boldly
moving forward in faith together.
1903: Horses and buggies along