Friday, July 17, 2009

Church-going Presidents

While St. John’s Episcopal Church might carry the title “Church of the Presidents,” there have been several other houses of worship frequented by presidents over the years. Following a suggestion from a TMS reader, I have found a list of the Presidents’ churches around town. Co-editor Ian suggested that I write a joke for each entry. The best I came up with was: Herbert Hoover was a Quaker; he needed all the Friends he could get. [insert copious laughter and applause] Thank you very much. I’ll be here all night.

On second thought, I may be better off sticking to the facts. Below is the list, and I’ve selected a few to say something about. Not all the churches still survive, such as The National Presbyterian Church, but there is still a good amount. If you are visiting DC, stop by St. John’s as it is newly restored. Lincoln’s church is not far off from Ford’s Theatre, so check that out too!

All Soul’s Church (16th and Harvard Streets)
-John Quincy Adams
-Millard Fillmore
-William Howard Taft

Calvary Baptist Church (8th and H Streets)
-Warren G. Harding

Central Presbyterian Church (16th and Irving Streets)
-Woodrow Wilson

Christ Church (North Washington Street, Alexandria)
-George Washington

First Baptist Church (16th and O Streets)

-Harry Truman

First Congregational Church (10th and G Streets)
-Calvin Coolidge

Foundry Methodist Church (16th and Church Streets)
This congregation was originally located in Georgetown. After the British attacked Washington, a resident Henry Foxall donated the land which contained an iron foundry that survived the attack to the congregation. It later moved to 14th and G Streets before finding a home on 16th Street. (At left)
-Rutherford B. Hayes

Friends Meeting (2111 Florida Avenue)
-Herbert Hoover

Grace Reformed Church (15th and O Streets)
-Theodore Roosevelt

Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church (36th Street between N and O Streets)
-John F. Kennedy

Metropolitan Memorial Methodist Church (Nebraska and New Mexico Avenues)
-William McKinley
-Ulysses S. Grant

National City Christian Church (Thomas Circle)
This congregation formed in 1819 with 7 people. The initial location was on M Street between 8th and 9th. By the time President Garfield began worshipping there, the church had moved to a larger location on Vermont Avenue. The current church on Thomas Circle was built in 1929 in order to accommodate a growing congregation. (At right)
-James A. Garfield

The National Presbyterian Church (Connecticut Avenue and 18th, near N Street)
-Andrew Jackson
-James Buchanan
-Grover Cleveland
-Benjamin Harrison
-Dwight Eisenhower

New York Avenue Presbyterian Church (New York Avenue and H Street)
Built in 1859, this church was the favorite place of worship for Abraham Lincoln, who would stroll from the White House down H Street to pray and reflect silently in the Lincoln Pew. The congregation’s legers and records include a sad note from the president saying that he had donated $5 to the church’s Sunday School. It was the amount found on Willie, Lincoln’s son, when he died of typhoid fever.
-Abraham Lincoln

St. John’s Episcopal Church (Lafayette Square, near the Hay Adams Hotel)
-James Madison
-James Monroe
-William Henry Harrison
-John Tyler
-Zachary Taylor
-Franklin Pierce
-Chester A. Arthur

St. Thomas Episcopal Church (18th and Church Streets)
Built in 1899, all that remains of this gothic style church is the skeleton of the stone structure and some ruins. The church catered to high society until after World War II, when white families left the city. During the Vietnam Protests, St. Thomas served as a shelter for protester and a sanctuary from the tear gas on Dupont Circle. The original church was burnt in an act of arson in 1970. The parish turned the surviving walls of the church in to a memorial park, and built a new church off the back of it. (At left)
-Franklin D. Roosevelt

You’ll notice that this is an incomplete list. It excludes more recent presidents, and where is Thomas Jefferson? Rumor has it he attended a church in SE Washington. I’m looking in to it and will report back.

Sources: Anna Olga Jones, Churches of the Presidents in Washington, Exposition Press, 1961.

Foundry United Methodist Church.

National City Christian Church.

St. Thomas' Parish.

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