Ed Whitehead speaks about 139th Birthday of CPC
Central Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) opened as "Church at Goodson" on January 16, 1875, and later became "Second Presbyterian Church." Deciding the church was second to none, the church leaders changed the name to Central in 1902 and it remains the name today.
In 1875, when Central's 24 founders withdrew from First Presbyterian Church with that congregation's blessings, the Episcopal Church lent its facilities to the group. In 1877, the group built its first church on the corner of Moore and Cumberland streets. Fire destroyed the frame church on October 11, 1903. From that old building, today's church holds two tangible assets: a gavel, made from a piece of charred wood saved from the 1903 fire, and the bell, which was rescued from the burning wood tower. The gavel has been used in session meetings and the bell, located in our church's 120-foot steeple, rings each Sunday morning.
Central's building fund grew and on December 11, 1904, the congregation moved into a handsome Gothic church built on the same site. Henri Doriot, son of charter member Victor Doriot, was the resident architect for the church and architect for the stately old Bristol courthouse on the next block. The beautiful Gothic church served its members well, but the congregation grew in vision and in numbers. The building no longer could serve its congregation adequately. Before the move to the present colonial brick structure on Euclid Avenue, a service of deconsecration took place on July 12, 1950, at 9pm. Dedicated to God for 46 years, the property no longer would be used for religious purposes, so deconsecration was fitting and necessary.
From that 1904-1950 church, today's church inherits many things, including an 1854 New Testament in Hebrew, records from the early congregation, faded Confederate bills, and a list of 1904 officers and members.
The center window in today's chapel, "Gethsemane," was moved from the 1904 church and continues to be a memorial to our first pastor, Dr. James Doak Tadlock (1875-1877). Flanking it are "The Nativity" and "The Resurrection" memorials given at the time of the 1950 move from Mrs. Marie Doriot Vance and Dr. Donald McIver. Mrs. Vance was a charter member's child and active member of the church until her death in 1948. Dr. McIver served as Central's pastor from 1921 until 1945 and founded and served McIver Memorial Church as its first pastor. Members of these families remain involved in Central today.
Central continued to grow and flourish and once again outgrew its building. In 1995, the congregation made the commitment to remodel part of the church and construct an addition that includes Central Hall. Contemporary worship became a reality as well as many other programs that enrich the church.