The building is a large English Gothic structure designed by William C. Hays and completed in 1914. Its huge organ has over 4,000 pipes, the largest of which are 32 feet tall.
First Presbyterian was the first congregation in Oakland in 1853, and started small, meeting in a tent near the waterfront. Later that year they met in a schoolhouse owned by Horace Carpentier, and the Rev. Samuel B. Bell conducted the first communion service to a congregation of 13 people. The church was organized by Rev. Edward B. Walsworth. The first church building was at 6th and Harrison. Circa 1876 the church was at 14th and Franklin.
The Rev. Laurentine Hamilton was pastor from 1865-1869, when he was forced to resign his ordination for heresy. Much of the congregation left with him to form the First Independent Presbyterian Church, later the First Unitarian Church of Oakland.
The Rev. Daniel Poor was pastor from 1869-1873.
The Rev. James Eells, D.D. was pastor from 1873-at least 1884. In 1884 the church was at Broadway and 13th Street.
Rev. Francis A. Horton was the pastor in 1887; he lived at 1357 Franklin Street.
They moved a number of times before constructing the present building on Broadway, which was completed in 1914. The original plans for the building included a taller steeple, but some members of the congregation felt they were spending too much on the building and not enough on their missions, so a smaller steeple was built instead.
When the current building was originally constructed, 27th Street did not connect between Broadway and Telegraph Avenue, so the church was usually described as being at the intersection of 26th and Broadway. Note the house that formerly existed north of the church, as shown in the circa 1940s photo posted in the Oakland History group on Facebook.
Members of the congregation have included:
- Robert Smilie and family
Links and References
- First Presbyterian Church of Oakland website
- about the organ, Rosales Organ Builders website
- 100 Years of Achievement and Challenge: A Brief History of the First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, California, Ben F. Edwards 1953