On February 22, 1872, twenty-nine persons met at the home of Mrs. Marvina A. G. Hayes with the purpose of forming a Presbyterian Church in the Ballston area of Alexandria County, Virginia. A Social Mite Society was also formed. Each member paid an initiation fee of 25 cents and monthly dues of 10 cents. Members made and sold articles of clothing and held several festivals to raise funds for the proposed church.
On April 28, 1872, a Sunday School was started in the hall above George Mortimer's Blacksmith Shop at Ball's crossroads - the intersection of Glebe Road and Wilson Boulevard.
On June 12, 1872, by arrangement with the Presbytery of Washington City, the minister of the Falls Church Presbyterian Church, the Rev. David H. Riddle, began to preach at 3:00 p.m. every other Sunday and by December, was preaching every Sunday.
By October 1872, enough money and support had been obtained by members to purchase an eleven-acre tract of land for $1,200 at the northwest corner of Wilson Boulevard and Glebe Road. One acre was reserved for the church site and the other ten were planned as a cemetery. Bob Peck's Chevrolet occupied the northwest corner of Wilson and Glebe for the second half of the 20th Century; the site was redeveloped in 2012 as a ten-story, mixed-use office building.
Ground was broken for the church on April 18, 1873. Several fundraising activities were held to obtain funds for materials and labor during the erection of the building. Meanwhile, the Sunday School and worship services continued at Mortimer's blacksmith shop.
On May 17, 1874, worship services were first held in the unfinished building. There was no floor, rough seats were built consisting of bundles of shingles with boards laid across, and the pulpit was a board laid across a couple of carpenter's skids. The church was completed and dedicated on October 22, 1876.
The acreage for the planned cemetery was sold on July 18, 1882 for $2,500. The funds were used to build the Sunday School on the west side of the church. The addition was used for the first time December 24, 1882, for the Christmas program. The church was organized as the First Presbyterian Church of Ballston, Alexandria County, Virginia by the Presbytery on July 5, 1895, with 65 members.
The Reverend Frederick Andrews was installed as the first pastor of the independent church in 1896. (In 1920, when the county separated from the City of Alexandria and was called Arlington County, the Church became the First Presbyterian Church of Arlington, Virginia.)
A seven-room manse, north of the church, was completed on March 12, 1891, and the garage was erected in 1926. On November 22, 1912, electric lights replaced kerosene lamps in the church building. Dedication of the present pipe organ and renovation of the sanctuary was held on March 22, 1931. Major improvements continued to be made to the church facilities. During 1946, the old kitchen, coal bin, and furnace were replaced by a modern kitchen, rest rooms, a new furnace, and a concrete floor in the basement.
The Rev. George H. Yount was installed as pastor on May 16, 1944. Membership and attendance increased until it was necessary to hold two worship services on Sunday. Soon it became apparent that a larger facility was needed and a number of plans were studied by the congregation. The original plans called for the erection of a new building on the same site, but increasing traffic congestion and the encroachment of commercial properties along the Glebe-Wilson intersection resulted in the decision to find another site for the church. After considering several sites, the congregation authorized the Trustees to purchase the 3.5 acre Veitch Property at North Vermont Street and Carlin Springs Road. The land was purchased for $35,000.
Bulletins for 1944 and 1945 ask for special prayers for many sons and daughters of the congregation who were serving in our nation's armed forces. A special service of celebration was held on May 8, 1945, commemorating VE day. The Ladies Aid and the Missionary Society met in homes throughout those years. And there were several blood drives noted in the bulletins.
On December 30, 1945, the following announcement appears: "Sharing what we have will be observed as we think prayerfully and sacrificially of the hunger and starvation, hanging like an impenetrable cloud over Europe, as thousands of men, women, and little children ask only for the right to live. Our church will send boxes of food and clothing to deserving ones in Europe. A box is provided in the Sunday School room where we may contribute our fair portion from our land of plenty."
The architect was instructed by the congregation to design the new church so that it could be built in different sections as funds became available. The high building costs, the lack of a purchaser for the old property, and crowded conditions in the church school, led the congregation to decide to build part of the education building first. Known as Unit C, this building was dedicated and opened for church school classes August 6, 1950.
In September 1950, the old property was sold for $200,800. In January 1951, the construction of the new sanctuary, social hall, kitchen, and choir room began. The section was completed on June 15, 1952, at a cost of $278,268.
After a fitting farewell service at the old site on December 9, 1951, the congregation followed the cross, pulpit, Bible, pastor, and official boards to the steps of the new sanctuary where worship was concluded.
Morning worship was continued in the social hall while the sanctuary construction continued. The present sanctuary was used for the first time on June 15, 1952, which was followed by the cornerstone laying and formal dedication. An addition to the existing wing was dedicated on April 9, 1961. The new Christian Education wing allowed room for a library, assistant pastor's office, church parlor and classroom facilities. Several major improvements were made over the years: central air-conditioning was installed in the sanctuary in 1967, additions to the pipe organ in 1968, and renovation of the social hall in 1971.
The congregation concluded a successful Capital Fund Drive in 1986 for the renovation of the steeple, restoration of the organ, and other repairs to the building; and a Capital-Centennial Campaign was conducted in 1991 for the purpose of installing an elevator, providing handicap accessibility, renovations of the sanctuary and social hall, installing a new organ console, and supporting denominational missions. In 1995, the church completed these goals and celebrated the 100th anniversary of the chartering.
The history of the building, site, leadership and congregational development are part of the tangible signs of the church in its greater commitment to witness to the Gospel in word and deed. Over the years this dynamic congregation has been dedicated to God in worship, caring for one another, reaching out to Arlington, and in mission to the world.
Throughout the years, hundreds of persons have given faithful service to Christ in the life of First Presbyterian Church. We enjoy the results of their work and faithfulness, but God is the One who uses our gifts and God is the One who sustains our life as a community of faith.
"Glory be to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or even imagine. Glory be to God in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and forever!" (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Rev. David Riddle 1872 - 1889
Rev. D. L. Rathburn 1890 - 1896
Rev. Frederick E. Andrews 1896 - 1898
Rev. William J. Young 1898 - 1907
Rev. Edward Napoleon Kirby 1908 - 1917
Rev. Edward Wright 1917 - 1923
Dr. John Lee Allison (stated supply) 1923 - 1924
Rev. George G. Culbertson (stated supply) 1924 - 1928
Dr. Linius L. Strock 1928 - 1943
Dr. George H. Yount 1944 - 1980
Rev. Robert A. Barnett 1955 - 1957
Rev. Charles Cureton (Associate Pastor) 1966 - 1969
Rev. Miles (Interim Pastor)
Rev. Donald E. Jernigan 1982 - 1988
Rev. Bill Sengle (Interim Pastor) 1988 - 1989
Dr. Roxana Mebane Atwood 1989 - 2000
Rev. Harmon Scott Ramsey (Associate Pastor) 1998 - 2006
Rev. Jack Wineman (Interim Pastor) 2000 - 2001
Rev. George Knight (stated supply) 2001 - 2002
Rev. Kimberly L. Rodrigue 2002 - 2007
Rev. René Whitaker (Interim Associate Pastor) 2006 - 2007
Rev. Charlotte Lohrenz (Interim Pastor) 2007 - 2010
Rev. Stephany Crosby (Interim Pastor) 2010
Rev. Dr. Bryan H. Mickle 2010 - 2020
Rev. Caroline W. Wilson (Transitional Pastor) 2020 - present
Notes: This history is excerpted from several sources: a history produced for the 100th anniversary of our charter in 1895 as First Presbyterian Church, Arlington, a Centennial memories book created in 1972 marking the 100th celebration of the founding of the church, and bulletins from the 1940's through the 1990's.