The church was established as a congregation on the last Sunday of the month (February 28), with five men and eleven women as charter members.
Vardry McBee, known as “the father of Greenville,” presented a deed for a portion of the land that the church now sits on. Several church trustees paid one dollar for the land to make it a proper real estate transaction. McBee, who was the husband of founding member Jane McBee and joined himself in 1861, also gifted the land for several other downtown churches.
The first sanctuary was built and completed at a cost of $2,188.41. It was the first Presbyterian structure erected in Greenville. At this time, the church was known as The Presbyterian Church of Greenville Court House, with The Rev. Savage Smith Gaillard as its first pastor.
Rev. Savage Smith Gaillard served as pastor from 1848-1860.
The church’s name was changed to Washington Street Presbyterian Church.
Dr. Edward Tonge Buist served as pastor from 1861-1877.Dr. Robert Hoge Nall served as pastor from 1877-1885.
The original church building was torn down because the congregation had quickly outgrown it as Greenville’s population increased.
The new church was built by Joshua W. Nichols, a contractor who was a member of the church, for $24,596.71.
Dr. John McAden Rose served as pastor from 1886-1891.Dr. Thomas Maxwell McConnell served as pastor from 1892-1902.Dr. Thomas Wylie Sloan served as pastor from 1902-1931.
Because the congregation had swelled due to the growth of Greenville and attendance by students from Chicora College (a Presbyterian college for women located off Main Street across from what is now Falls Park), the sanctuary was enlarged so that more worshipers could be seated.
As more Presbyterian churches moved into the area as a result of the efforts of missionaries, the name was changed to its present one: First Presbyterian Church of Greenville, SC.
A red brick educational building was added to the campus.
Dr. Charles Haddon Nabers served as pastor from 1932-1954.Dr. Clyde Newman Faulconer served as pastor from 1955-1973.
The congregation expanded its facilities once again by building another educational wing and gymnasium called the Symmes-Wilson building.
Dr. Paul Randolph Kowalski served as pastor from 1974-2004.
The sanctuary underwent major demolition and expansion. Only the two towers and the walls facing Washington and Richardson Streets remained from the previous 1883 structure. The main axis of the church was reoriented from north-south to east-west and could accommodate 1,200 worshipers at a single service. An extra 10,000 square feet provided a choir rehearsal space, conference room, parlor, bride's room, classrooms, and storage. Construction was completed in 1987 and a re-consecration service was held on November 29.
The church underwent another expansion program with the building of a Christian Life Center and renovation of the red brick education building. The new facility was designed to include a new chapel, staff offices, youth floor, fellowship hall, and kitchen. The old fellowship hall and kitchen were renovated for more preschool and kindergarten classrooms and the Tucker-Dean nursery was renovated and enlarged. Coffee Street was closed and the Stewart-Adams Scout Building relocated across Academy Street. The 38,000-square-foot Christian Life Center was completed in 1999 and named in honor of Dr. Randolph Kowalski.
Dr. Richard Gibbons currently serves as pastor (2007-present).
The Academy at First Presbyterian (preschool and elementary) acquired Shannon Forest Christian School to form two campuses offering Christian education to students ages K2-K12. Due to this transaction, the decline of the Symmes-Wilson building, and the need for a comprehensive campus expansion, a capital campaign was launched. On October 4, 2019, the church broke ground on a $33 million, 77,000-square-foot building project on the footprint of the demolished Symmes-Wilson building. The master plan included a 1,000-seat Worship and Arts Center, a centrally located main entrance and gathering space, a new gymnasium, a secure area for the children’s ministry, new youth facilities, additional adult classrooms, an art gallery, a bookstore, and a café.
First Presbyterian Church celebrated its 175th anniversary (February 28, 2023) on March 5. This is an exciting year with the completion and opening of the new buildings, dedications of named areas, the inaugural exhibit of the Lenz Gallery, and the many events and services which will be held in the new Worship & Arts Center.