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Old Stone Church

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1796, Christopher Foglesong and John Brown, stonemasons. 1830. 1968, Henry J. Browne (Grigg, Wood and Browne). 200 Church St. (south of intersection with Foster St.)
  • Old Stone Church (HABS/HAER)

The Presbyterian Old Stone Church is one of West Virginia's most familiar historic buildings. It was erected under the direction of Col. John Stuart, whose own home ( GR17) near Lewisburg dates from the same period. Stuart also composed and carved the inscription stone above the main doorway. According to tradition, women of the congregation brought sand for mortar on horseback from the banks of the Greenbrier River, two and one-half miles away. Rough limestone walls laid in random rubble stand two stories tall, punctuated with two tiers of shuttered rectangular windows. The seemingly casual arrangement of fenestration and doorways is partially explained by the fact that the original, almost square meetinghouse was expanded in 1830, giving it a rectangular form and a new orientation. Soon afterward, in 1834, an octagonal belfry with an ogee-domed roof was centered on the new hipped roof. The wellknown Meneely Foundry of Troy, New York, cast its bell in 1855.

In 1968 the sanctuary was returned to a “colonial” appearance under the direction of a Charlottesville, Virginia, architecture firm known for its expertise in historic restoration. A high pulpit, reached by a curving stair, dominates the plain interior and allows the minister to preach equally well to congregants seated in the U-shaped balcony as to those on the main floor.

Old Stone Church has long been regarded as a cornerstone of its denomination in the state and beyond. In 1909–1910 a Sunday school building, designed by Roanoke, Virginia, architect Homer Miller, was erected north of the church. This brick building, fronted by a broad Doric portico, was completed in time to host the denomination's General Assembly in 1910. The Presbyterian Synod of West Virginia was formed at Old Stone several years later. Architect Hugh Giffin designed the religious education building that was added in 1952. This sensitively designed addition, recessed between the church and the formerly freestanding Sunday school, gives the complex an overall U shape.

The church cemetery, the oldest in Lewisburg, is notable for its early stone markers, some carved east of the Alleghenies and brought here by oxcart. The table tomb of Thomas Creigh, Sr., a native of County Antrim, Ireland, who died in 1847, is signed “Miller & Vincent, Richmond,” while other stones are from Staunton. Henry Erskine's marble tombstone, a classical stele form topped with a sarcophagus-lid motif, stands six and one-half feet tall and is decorated with a carved Masonic insignia. Commissioned in 1848 by Erskine's son-in-law, the tombstone is thought to be West Virginia's only remaining example of a design by Alexander Jackson Davis. Davis's daybook contains sketches of the monument, along with records of its cost. It was fabricated and carved at the Tuckahoe Marble Quarry in Westchester County, New York.

Writing Credits

S. Allen Chambers Jr.

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