This church building is testament to faith and resilience.
The present First Presbyterian Church of Shelby, located on North Gamble Street, has occupied this spot for the last 115 years. It stands on the lot to the south of the Post Office Building, the subject of another recent post in this series.
The fact that it exists, however, is rather miraculous.
Presbyterians first met in the Shelby area in the early 1820s. After a couple of initial locations, the congregation built a church on South Broadway in 1851.
In 1892, however, First Presbyterian opened a new building which was cosnructed at a cost of $11,000. The congregation grew so quickly that by 1899, members were hard at work renovating and expanding their facility, finishing with a grand reopening in January of 1901.
Three weeks later, the building was destroyed by fire.
Undaunted, members regrouped and a replacement building was started, one with a fine pipe organ and with exterior walls of red sandstone and a red tile roof. This building cost $25,000 and was opened on June 1, 1902.
On February 14, 1905, another fire gutted the church, leaving only the exterior walls standing. Members cleared the debris and rebuilt yet again, opening the new church in April 1906. A third pipe organ was purchased from the same company.
On May 1, 1906, a gala Organ Recital and Concert was held at the church to celebrate featuring the organ, cello, cornet, and vocalist.
At the time, the Shelby Daily Globe declared, “The Presbyterians are to be congratulated on their hard work. They have had three fires in less than five years and have rebuilt each time. There are not many congregations in the United States that would have gone through the experiences the local church has met with and still remain in existence.”
The building is designed in the Gothic style with wide, overhanging eves and thick massing. The exterior features one of the best surviving examples of so-called “Black Hand” or Mansfield sandstone, with veins that give the stone its brilliant red and pink coloring. This stone is from a quarry north of Mansfield that began its operations in the 1840s and continued producing stone until the 1930s.