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805 Center Ave.
Bay City, MI 48708
(989) 892-1591

mail@firstpresbaycity.org

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    Our Heritage
First Presbyterian Church in 1903
 


View of present church building looking north west. Painting by Paul Kusmierz
          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 Jackson street.

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