Old School Presbyterian
Presently Pine Street Presbyterian Church
History of Dauphin and Lebanon Counties, c. 1883, Willam Henry Egle
Old School Presbyterian Church was founded in 1858 by a group of 42 members led by James McCormick, Jr. They erected an elegant Gothic Revival church designed by Luther M. Simon at N. Third and Pine Streets and laid the cornerstone in 1859. The church became a separate congregation from the Market Square Presbyterian Church after the latter church was destroyed by fire in 1858. Pine Street Presbyterian Church was present during the Civil War with Union troops encamped across the street in Capitol Park.
Mrs. Eliza McCormick and Mrs. Cameron Warford were elected representatives for the establishment of the Home for the Friendless.
Further Historical Retrospection
In the late 1850’s there was a growing disagreement in religious ideology within the congregation of the English Presbyterian Church, later renamed the Market Square Presbyterian Church. The Market Square Church embraced what was then known as the New School theology.
However, a number of parishioners embraced the Old School theology and split from the congregation and formed at first what was named the Old School Presbyterian Church, then the “Presbyterian Church of Harrisburg” and then finally the Pine Street Presbyterian Church.
After having left the English Presbyterian Church of Harrisburg in 1858, the newly formed congregation, which built Pine Street, first met in the Chambers of the Pennsylvania State Senate. Completed in 1860, the limestone-constructed Pine Street Presbyterian Church was designed in the English Gothic style by Harrisburg architect Luther M. Simon. The church was the place of worship for noted Harrisburg families such as the Camerons and the McCormicks and particularly by James McCormick (1801-1870) who spearheaded the organization of the new church and was one of its original Trustees.
The Church is particularly remembered for its role during the Civil War when Union troops, stationed in the city during the threatened attack by the Confederates, camped across N. Third Street in Capitol Park and were assisted in their needs by the women of the Church from whom funds were raised to support the Union cause.
Moving into the 20th Century, the church building was further enhanced in a more fervent expression of the Gothic tradition. In 1926 the renowned New York and Boston architectural firm of Cram and Ferguson reconfigured the sanctuary on the ground floor of the building and raised the roof, creating a striking clerestory space reminiscent of the medieval English church. The vast interior is awe-inspiring through the richly carved woodwork, exposed beams and rafters, and beautifully executed collection of stained-glass windows. The fine acoustics are of particular note and are experienced through the sound of the church’s four manual grand pipe organ featuring 5,219 pipes.
Many sacred and secular musical performances by nationally and internationally known artists are held here. The Church is distinguished by its Chancel Choir that is the foundation of the music ministry leading worship at the 10:00 am service each Sunday. The choir is composed of volunteers and paid section leaders. In addition, the choir and handbell ensemble present an annual Festival of Lessons and Carols service each year with orchestral accompaniment. Participation is known to be a rewarding experience and is open to amateur and professional singers.
The neighboring Boyd Building on South Street, which today houses Downtown Daily Bread, Pine Street’s ministry to the homeless and hungry of Harrisburg, was built in 1916. Over past years there have been many activities held there including bowling, basketball, a summer camp, motion pictures, checkers, an orchestra, glee club, a drum corp. and much more. The Downtown Daily Bread offers a Soup Kitchen with weekday breakfasts and lunch meals, a Day Shelter with cots, computers, phones, staff counselors and many other services.
Banner photo courtesy Jeb Stuart.