First Presbyterian, located at 213 Main St., was one of the first organized churches in the region. In 1822, the congregation started in homes with the first building being constructed in 1840, with the help of slave labor. There were 14 founding members of the church but the land that the building was constructed on was donated by Lucinda Elder, the wife of Clarksville’s first mayor. The current building was constructed in 1878 by C.L. Clark of Louisville. He followed the same neo-gothic design of the original church.
If you attend the church, you will be sitting in the original pews that have been there for decades. In 1923, a tornado came through downtown Clarksville and tore down the rose window and wasn’t replaced until 1936. However, First Presbyterian was untouched by the 1999 tornado saving its large rose stained-glass window – which glows at night while overlooking Clarksville’s Downtown Commons.
First Presbyterian, with their high arched ceiling and stained-glass windows, is the perfect historical church for the holidays. Their Christmas service is always packed with not a seat to spare, so be sure to get there early to see this beautiful church decorated in garland and festive wreaths.
Through efforts of Bishop Meade of Virginia and missionaries from the Diocese of Kentucky and North Carolina, Trinity Episcopal Church was founded on June 21, 1832. The First Presbyterian Church of Clarksville was also a key member in supporting Trinity Episcopal as a sign of respectability. In 1838, the first church building was completed, a small neo-gothic stone structure, due to benefactors such as Thomas Frazer and other tobacco planters. The first building stood until the 1870s when it was replaced with the current neo-gothic stone structure.
In January 1999, the devastating tornado that came through downtown Clarksville damaged Trinity. The outer stone walls were unharmed, but the roof has since been replaced with new large wooden beams. Some of the beautiful stained-glass windows were also shattered but were able to be put back together.
The church’s red door is a recognizable Episcopalian symbol showing that all are welcome and was recently named one of “Clarksville’s Top Six Instagrammable Spots” by Golden Age Travels. Trinity Episcopal and the famous red doors are located at 317 Franklin St.
Madison Street United Methodist Church
Situated at 319 Madison St., MSUMC was built more recently than the others, in 1882, but they share a similar style. This church is an outstanding representative of ecclesiastical architecture from the nineteenth century. The 1999 tornado had the most direct effect on MSUMC by destroying most of the building, including the two spires that are synonymous with the Victorian Gothic style.
The church’s traditional stone steeples were rebuilt as two copper-clad, structural steel outlines of the original towers, causing a bit of a controversy at the time. As the steeples point towards Heaven, they also incorporate Heaven within. The steeples were lit from underneath, making this city landmark its own unique identity.
Local lore says that a traveling painter passing through Clarksville painted both the Lord’s Prayer on the wall in First Presbyterian and the Apostle’s Creed in MSUMC.
Click this link and follow the trail for more information on Clarksville’s historic buildings and architectural highlights.
***Photo Credits: Ron Jackson (Photo 1), Justin Campbell (Photo 2), EOA-Arcitects (Photo 4)***