The congregation of the First Presbyterian Church of Meadville, founded in 1800, gathers in what is actually the second building on this site. The first church was built in 1818 and demolished in 1873. The present church was completed in 1875 at a cost of $43,000 (over $1 million in today's currency). It is a fine specimen of the Victorian Gothic style, of brown brick and sandstone trim, with a length of 112 feet and a width of 75 feet.
Looking southwest on a clear winter morning.
The south tower, rising to a height of 150 feet, is a local landmark.
South tower, detail. Behind the grille is a 1,000-pound bell cast at the Meneely Bell Foundry in Troy, New York. This bell has called the faithful to worship every Sunday since 1875.
Sanctuary, looking west.
In 1932, the Pittsburgh Stained Glass Company crafted new windows to replace the original clear ones. Ten windows, including this one, adorn the north and south walls of the sanctuary.
The east window, 22 feet high and six feet wide. Text at bottom reads "Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends -- John 15:13"
Two scenes from the east window.
The organ screen, designed by the architects Hanna & Stewart of Meadville, was installed in 1948 as a memorial to the church members who lost their lives in the Second World War. Behind the screen lurk the 2,500 pipes of the Schlicker organ.
Looking northwest, c.1935 -- note the differences between this photo and the previous one. The exposed organ pipes are from the 1924 Tellers instrument, destroyed in the fire of 1970. The configuration of the chancel area is different: a small, railed platform in front of the choir loft contains a central pulpit, and the communion table sits on the floor below. The two large minister's chairs, possibly dating from the 1870s, now reside in the downstairs chapel. The small model of the church sitting on the communion table, familiarly known as "the Church in the Light of the Cross," is still used each year on Stewardship Sunday as the members of the congregation come forward to drop in their financial pledges for the coming year. While the hymnboards are still in weekly use, the upright piano is not: it was replaced by a Steinway grand in 1969.
Communion table with plaque: "In memory of David Derickson, L.L.D., and of his love of the Church in which he was Ruling Elder, 1830-1884"
Marble baptismal font with inscription: "In memory of our Mother, Mrs. Harriott Derickson, 1800-1879"
A view which few people ever see: looking east from the upper level of the organ chamber. The sanctuary was designed to seat over 600, but holds about 400 in its present configuration. (Originally the aisles were narrower, and there were rows of pews extending forward to roughly where the pulpit and lectern are now.)
After the fire of 1970 destroyed the freestanding Christian education building, the congregation elected to build a new classroom/office wing connected to the sanctuary. On the first floor are the church offices and a daycare; the second floor contains meeting rooms and a library. A gymnasium is also built into the structure.
The newest addition to the church campus, built in 2000 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the congregation. On the lower level is a 60-seat chapel (currently used for the Soulstice gatherings), and the upper level contains the choir room and music director's office. Note the details, such as the pointed-arch windows and lighter trim, which bring this addition into harmony with the original building.
(photos and captions by Kevin Dill, with information drawn from A History of the First Presbyterian Churchof Meadville, Pennsylvania by William B. Moore et al., 1985.)