The most enduring icons of Chattanooga’s history are churches. Spires and Gothic architecture stand fast against ebbs and flows of ephemeral commercial design.
In September of 2021, Second Presbyterian Church celebrates 150 years.
'Second' was founded by members of the 'First' Presbyterian Church who supported the formation of a body of Northern Presbyterian believers. At a 3pm service there on Sunday, September 3, 1871, Second Presbyterian was formally established. Chattanooga was still young – the city being founded only 32 years earlier. Their first church building was established at the NE corner of Eighth and Chestnut in 1881. Under the leadership of Reverend W. J. Trimble the church grew rapidly. He had first seen Chattanooga as a chaplain in the Union Army in 1863.
With growth, a new building was needed. Land was purchased just two blocks away at 7th & Pine. The house of worship we recognize today was dedicated in 1891; its Victorian Romanesque style designed by Chattanooga's preeminent architect, R. H. Hunt. The extraordinary downtown building features native sandstone from Sewanee, Tennessee.
Church archivist Norma C. Witherspoon has been doing extensive research leading up to the 150-year celebration. Earlier this year, she contacted me when glass plate photos were found. These 100+ year old images can be challenging to scan. I worked with her to digitize all free of charge or contractual obligations.
The church and its members have played important roles in the development of Chattanooga, appropriately devoting time and effort in preserving their history.
The majority of historic photos here are smaller 'glass slides' - with one exception; a glass plate negative of the 'Farrand & Votey' pipe organ installed from 1892 to 1959.