The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church was formed by the union of the F Street Church and the Second Church.
The F Street Church was organized by members of the Associate Reformed Church, who had removed to -Washington when the seat of Government was transferred in 1800. Upon their petition to the Presbytery of Philadelphia, in 1803, these members were organized into a Presbyterian church, and on May 13, 1803, the Rev. James Laurie was chosen pastor, and continued in that office until his death, April 18, 1853, a period of fifty years. He had the assistance, during the closing years of his life, of the Rev. Levi H. Christian, who served as his associate from November 12, 1849, until October 28, 1850, and of the Rev. D. X. Junkin from 1851, who continued to serve the church after the death of Dr. Laurie to October 12, 1853. The Rev. Phineas D-Gurley, D. D., was unanimously chosen pastor November 14, 1853.
The Second Church was organized October 13, 1820, and the Rev. Daniel Baker was chosen pastor June 6, 1821. In July, 1821, the membership of this Church was twenty-nine, while that of the F Street Church was about sixty. Mr. Baker resigned in 1828, and the Rev. John N. Campbell became pastor October 27, 1828, at a salary of $800, remaining with the people until June 21, 1830. In November of that year the Rev. Edward D. Smith became pastor, continuing as such until June 14, 1835, after which date the church struggled along with varying success and misfortune and without a settled pastor until, in 1840, the Rev. Courtlandt Van Rensselaer was chosen. In 1841 the people worshipped with the F Street congregation, Mr. Van Rensselaer occupying the pulpit during the illness and absence of Dr. Laurie.
In 1841 the General Assembly dissolved the Presbytery of the.District of Columbia and attached its churches to the Presbytery of Baltimore. In 1844 the Second Church, in a communication to that Presbytery for assistance, represented that there was but one Presbyterian house of worship in this city, which had a population of 30,000 souls, of which 15,000 resided between Fourteenth street and the Capitol. The appeal was responded to and in the same year a room was rented on Eleventh street (Carusi's), and with $400 raised by the people and $200 contributed by the Presbytery the work was continued under the care of the Rev. Thomas R. Owens, who had been assigned to the field. Later in the year 1844 a Sunday-School was organized, and the Rev. W. W. Eells was chosen pastor, serving until 1846. On June 1, 1848, the Rev. James R. Eckard was elected, and the church remained under his care until September 14, 1858. From this time the subject of the union of the two churches began to receive favorable consideration. The Rev. J. G. Hamner, D. D., who was called, declined the pastorate, but remained as a stated supply, using his efforts and influence to accomplish the end which seemed so desirable. This was practically reached Jully 30, 1859, when seventy-four members of the Second united with the F Street Church, the membership of which was then two hundred and thirteen persons
The consolidation was effected October 14, 1859. On that day it was ratified by the Presbytery of the Potomac, and the name The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church was adopted. The Rev. Phineas D. Gurley, in obedience to the cordial wishes of the people, remained as pastor of the new organization.
In July, 1859, the F Street property was sold to the Messrs. Willard —the lot for $1.50 per foot, which, with the building, amounted to about $12,500. On Sunday, September 25, 1S59, last service was held in that Church, which is now known as Willard Hall. In the meantime plans had been perfected to build the present edifice upon the site then owned and occupied by the Second Church. The corner-stone was laid October 10, 1859. The Lecture Room was first used July 14, 1860, and the Church was dedicated on the stormy Sunday of October 14, 1860. The cost of the edifice was about $30,000. The Church grew in prosperity, and on March 16, 1865, a meeting was held which was the first step towards the organization of the North Presbyterian Church—then called the Northern Presbyterian Mission. At this meeting the sum of $1,300 was subscribed— principally by Senator E. D. Morgan, Ex-Governor Shepherd, General Carrington, and Mr. Ballantyne—for the purchase of the site, and, on January 20, 1866, nineteen persons were granted letters of dimission to organize the North Church. The Gurley Sunday-School was afterwards organized. The pastorate of Dr. Gurley closed with his death, September 30, 1868.
On January 26, 1869, the Rev. Samuel S. Mitchell, D. D., was chosen pastor, under whose ministry the Church continued its vigorous growth. In 1872 the present system of systematic beneficence was adopted, resulting in a very large increase in the funds raised for missionary and other purposes. The work at the Gurley Mission was prosecuted, and that at Bethany was begun. In 1874 Bethany Chapel was built and furnished at a cost of $3,378, and in 1876 further improvements were made at a cost of $1,250. Dr. Mitchell resigned May 2, 1878, to accept a call to Brooklyn, N. Y.
In June, 1878, the Rev. John R. Paxton, D. D., succeeded to the pastorate. In 1880 the brick edifice for the Gurley Mission was built, and in 1881 the galleries were placed in the Church on New York avenue—the cost of the former having been about $6,000, and of the latter about $6,500. Dr. Paxton resigned February 19, 1882, to accept an urgent call to New York city.
Rev. William Alvin Bartlett, D. D., was chosen pastor April 17, 1882, and commenced his labors June 1, 1882, at which time the membership was 593. In October, 1885, forty-one members were granted a letter of dimission to organize the Church of the Covenant, and others took letters later. In 1888 large improvements were added to Gurley Chapel to accommodate its Sunday-School and to fit the audience-room proper for church services, and on February 21, 1889, one hundred and nineteen persons were dismissed by certificate to organize the Gurley Memorial Presbyterian Church. In the fall of 1888 the work now known as that of Faith Mission was begun, and in 1890 the sum of $15,000 was raised to purchase the site and erect the building now occupied by that mission, in which the first services were held February 15, 1891.
Dr. Bartlett, on account of ill health, resigned his pastorate over this Church, and closed his labors the second Sabbath in November, 1894. Rev. Wallace Radcliffe, D. D., was chosen pastor, and entered upon his duties on May 26, 1895.
The foregoing sketch, confined to a bare statement of more important facts, it was thought would be of interest to our people. Many matters of interest that might be told have been omitted for lack of space.
The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church is under the jurisdiction of the Presbytery of Washington City, in connection with the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. It consists of a certain number of professing Christians, with their children, associated for divine worship and godly living, according to the Holy Scriptures and in submission to the Presbyterian form of government.
The Pastor and Elders and Deacons must accept the Westminster Confession of Faith, not in the details of its statements, but comprehensively, as the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures.
1. "History", Manual of the The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, Washington, D. C., January, 1896, pages 6-10.
See AlsoNew York Ave. Presbyterian Church 1896 Manual