serving jesus christ in portsmouth, oh since 1875
This is the declaration made by the congregation of 172 members on February 9, 1875, when Second Presbyterian Church was established:
The Rev. Heber A. Ketchum, former assistant minister of First Presbyterian Church, became the first minister of the new, uptown church. He held this post until 1884. Members of the first session were Dr. P.J. Kline, Dr. H.A. Ketchum, Oliver McCall, T.M. Patterson, Dr. C.P. Dennis, Dr. J.B. Bing and Irving Drew.
The first Sunday School Day was on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1875. The school grew dramatically. Many prominent citizens of Portsmouth were officers and teachers. In what is likely the largest attendance recorded for a worship service, 1076 were present on Easter Sunday, April 23, 1916.
A fire on June 9, 1895, severely damaged the main auditorium and totally destroyed the contents. This was followed by a mysterious explosion on July 18, 1896, that blew out many windows.
Expansion became necessary for the growing church. Membership of 1030 was listed as of April 1, 1911.
In 1910 a temporary tabernacle was raised on the Waller Street side of the site and used for services while a new building was under construction.
The newest edifice, of Hummelstown brownstone, was dedicated December 3, 1911. The architecture was a fine example of Tudor or Collegiate Gothic, the tower being a copy of the church of the Magdalene at Oxford, England.
The auditorium windows designed and erected by the Horace I. Phipps Company of Boston were among the most beautiful in the country, created with stained glass imported from various countries and consisting of over 182 different colors. The central subject of all the windows is Christ.
During this time, mission work was being accomplished in Buena Vista, Sandy Springs, Rome, Twin Creek, Blue Creek and other surrounding areas.
A fiftieth Jubilee Anniversary was held in an outstanding service in February 1925, during the pastorate of Dr. William H. Phelps.
Early in the morning of September 27, 1933, a disastrous fire destroyed the church, leaving only the wall, the bell tower, and a few of the exquisite windows, which are now in the chapel.
Throughout all of the disasters the membership, as well as the city, rallied in support of the committee appointed by the Session to remedy the damage. Even before the fires were out, cleaning, refurbishing and rebuilding were underway.
The majestic Collegiate Gothic brownstone, as we know it today, was dedicated March 4, 1935, with the Rev. Dunbar H. Ogden as officiating minister.
The 75th year was celebrated under the direction of the Rev. Arthur Cruickshank, with both First and Central Presbyterian Churches joining in the celebration. Dr. Howard R. Lowry, then President of Wooster College, addressed the congregation.
The 100th anniversary was a yearlong Jublilee Celebration with the Rev. Wayne Lowry, minister, as leader. Numerous serious and fun activities for congregation and community were included.
We honored our 50-year members at the 125th Anniversary in a Homecoming Celebration under the direction of Rev. Stanley Webster. Marj Carpenter, best-selling author for the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, regaled the congregation with colorful, homespun stories about her visits to more than 600 mission stations in 130 countries.
In October 1981, the Board of Deacons opened God’s Pantry in the church to serve the community by providing food for the needy. This effort has received the support of many churches and organizations in the community as well as steady support of the congregation. It is staffed by volunteers and during the year 1999, provided groceries for approximately 6,000 families.
In 1984 an extensive three-year renovation program was completed. The love and pride felt for the church was evident in the cooperation and support shown by the congregation in this effort.
Organ music has been an integral part of services as long as there has been a church. The Second Presbyterian Church organ is a custom-built St. Louis, Missouri, Kilgen organ of 2555 pipes, specifically constructed to fit the acoustical and architectural properties of our church. In 1995 the congregation successfully conducted a campaign to raise funds for restoration and maintenance of this remarkable instrument.
Another successful fundraising campaign, conducted in 1998, resulted in the restoration and preservation of the church’s stained glass windows. The work was completed over a two-year period.
A photo of worship being held in what remained of the sanctuary after the 1933 fire.