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Second Presbyterian Church

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1845–1848, Minard Lafever; c. 1905, chapel, Noland and Baskervill. Later additions. 13 N. 5th St.
  • Second Presbyterian Church (Valentine Museum, Richmond)

Richmond's major entry into the mid-nineteenth-century Gothic Revival mode came not from Episcopalians, as was common in many other cities, but from Presbyterians. Virginia Episcopalians remained resolutely “low church,” and hence the introduction of the style fell to a group of Richmond Presbyterians who wanted a building that would be “the most symmetrical and pleasing to an educated eye.” The vestry committee traveled north to Brooklyn and asked Lafever to design a church. He complied with this brick English Decorated Gothic edifice. Lafever is best known for his variously titled Greek Revival pattern books. Personally he favored the Gothic; the Greek sold books. The exterior, with its finials and crenellations, is relatively simple, but the wide meetinghouse space inside is overwhelming. It is probably the most impressive church interior in the city. Galleries surround three sides, and on the central axis is a dais for preaching and scripture reading. The wooden Gothic detailing is superb, and the hammerbeam roof that spans the vast space is a knockout. Transepts were added, and then Noland and Baskervill designed a small chapel at the east end, which is a more intimate space. The glass is by various makers, including Tiffany Studios, which provided the window in the chapel.

Writing Credits

Richard Guy Wilson et al.


What's Nearby


Richard Guy Wilson et al., "Second Presbyterian Church", [Richmond, Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Virginia: Tidewater and Piedmont, Richard Guy Wilson and contributors. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, 216-217.

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