by Mrs. Marjorie Adams, Archivist
Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church traces its roots to a congregation that was meeting in the not-quite-completed Virginia State Capitol building circa 1790. The pastor was the Reverend John Durburrow Blair, the first resident Presbyterian minister in Richmond.
Attempts to construct a building of its own were delayed until 1821 when this congregation built the Shockoe Hill Presbyterian Church on the corner of 8th and Franklin Streets and was subsequently recognized by Hanover Presbytery in 1822.
Meanwhile, the First Presbyterian Church had been organized. In 1838, amid a controversy, a group from that church broke away. This group eventually joined the Shockoe Hill church which then changed its name to United Presbyterian Church on Shockoe Hill.
Tragically, the church caught fire and was destroyed during the fires of April, 1865 when Confederate troops evacuated the city.
Grace Street Presbyterian Church, 1870-1915
Almost immediately, plans were made to rebuild, and a lot was purchased on the northeast corner of Grace and 4th Streets. The pastor, Dr. Charles H. Read, led a nationwide effort to raise the necessary funds.
The new building was nearing completion in 1872 in time to host the General Assembly meeting of the Southern Presbyterian Church. Meanwhile, the congregation in 1870 had changed its name to Grace Street Presbyterian Church. At the same time, Dr. Moses Drury Hoge, pastor of Second Presbyterian Church, was developing a mission Sunday school in what was then the far west end of the city. A small chapel, built at 907 W. Grace Street, was dedicated in 1876.
Church of the Covenant, 1891-1915
The group soon outgrew this chapel and built another on Harrison Street near Park Avenue, reserving the area of the lot facing Park for a major building. The name of the church was changed to Church of the Covenant in 1891. The projected sanctuary and educational building was completed in 1907.
Meanwhile, with the city's continued growth, the Grace Street Church was feeling the need to move from what had become a downtown location. It united with the Church of the Covenant in 1915 (actually December 28, 1914). The name Grace Covenant was adopted to recognize the union of the two churches.
Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, 1915-
The buildings at Park and Harrison served the congregation until new buildings were erected on Monument Avenue near the Lee Monument. The educational building was completed in 1920 and the sanctuary in 1923. This location in the developing prime residential area of the city contributed greatly to the growth of the church.
Today, Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church remains at 1627 Monument Avenue in a still popular residential area within the central city. It continues to welcome its neighbors as well as members from the entire metropolitan area.
If you would like to know more about the history of our congregation, please feel free to stop by the office and we will give you a copy of our church history.
Watch GCPC's Historical Account. For our 75th Anniversary this film was created to give an account of the church's history. As we look at our past we are inspired to a future of continuing to be a force for God's Justice and Love in the world.
Watch the 1970 GCPC Youth Video Project