How is a church born? By the grace and guidance of God, churches come into being and grow to usefulness by the vision, faith, and generosity of those who really love Christ and invest their talents, time and treasure His ongoing Kingdom.
-Dr. John S. Land, Sunday, May 29, 1956.
St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church is an offspring of First Presbyterian Church in New Orleans, which was founded in Lafayette Square under the leadership of Reverend Sylvester Larned on January 8, 1819. In 1905, a Sunday School known as the Afternoon Sunday School of the First Presbyterian Church was organized by Miss Rowena McMillan and began to meet in Mrs. Margaret Haughn’s school, at 1653 Octavia Street, in what became known as the Uptown area of New Orleans. The following year, the First Presbyterian Church purchased the old Governor McEnery residence, which was a lot bounded by St. Charles Avenue, State, and Benjamin Streets in the Uptown area. On May 17, 1911, the congregation of the First Presbyterian Church voted to erect a new building known as the St. Charles Avenue Branch of the First Presbyterian Church on this lot. Beginning on October 4, 1914 regular morning and evening services were conducted in this building, which was then known as “The Little Church.” By 1920, the work of the Branch Church had expanded so significantly that its organization into a separate church seemed advisable, and the St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church was formed on December 19, 1920 with 209 charter members. The church continued to grow and added the current Education Building in 1925.
In January of 1928, Alice Affleck Bloomfield made a large donation to St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church for the construction of a new Sanctuary. It was made in memory of her late husband, William B. Bloomfield, in accordance with both of their wishes at the time of his death. The new sanctuary was dedicated on February 2, 1930. W.W. Van Meter was the architect and general contractor. It is French Gothic in style, constructed of Indiana limestone, with dark English oak finishes throughout. The stained glass windows were made by Oidtmann Studios in Linnich, Germany, incorporating symbols of leaves, quatrefoils, diamonds, crosses and other items that recur throughout the sanctuary. The original ceiling stencils were designed and installed by John Geiser, Sr. The travertine texture of the walls was made with a sponge over a special paste of paint and varnish, and the joints were scored in an ashlar random pattern. The original air conditioning system consisted of blocks of ice in the basement with fans behind them blowing through vents on either side of the Chancel area – a novel mechanism in 1930!
The Sanctuary building received significant wind and rain damage from hurricane Katrina in 2005. This presented an opportunity to repair and renovate the entire interior of the building. By the spring of 2007, the new Sanctuary was open for business. It featured a hardened and repainted ceiling that incorporated the “quatrefoil leaf” stencil designs from the original ceiling, but with one major addition – the depiction of the shields of the twelve apostles in each of the twelve sections of the ceiling. The acoustics were such an improvement that musical performers from New Orleans to New York have told us that we have the best sound in the city!
Our Chapel and Chapel Windows
In 2012, we renovated the entire first floor of our Education Building. Our beautiful new Chapel in the corner of the building at State and Benjamin Streets was the highlight of this renovation. It was made possible primarily by a gift to the congregation from Mary Alma Riess in memory of her parents, Alma Mary Sirera Riess and John Riess, and her brother, John Karlem Riess. The remarkable stained glass windows of the Chapel were done by Louisiana artist Steve Wilson and feature the book of Genesis story of the Creation through the depiction of Louisiana flora and fauna.
The Land Building
Next door at 1535 State Street is the John Samuel Land Building, a recently refurbished nineteenth century house that is used for meetings and classes, as well as for tutoring for the Start the Adventure in Reading (STAIR) program.
Learn more about our history by picking up a copy of "Welcome Corner: A New History of St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church" by Author and former SCAPC Senior Pastor, Don Frampton.
Copies are available in the church office.