Westminster is the present day descendant of Dayton’s first church, organized in 1799 by the Washington Presbytery of the Synod of Kentucky. Our present building was constructed in 1925. With our rich history in the community, we have quite the story to tell.
History of the Congregation and Building
Westminster is the present day descendant of Dayton’s first church, organized in 1799 by the Washington Presbytery of the Synod of Kentucky. Originally it was named First Presbyterian Church. Worshiping in a small log cabin in the heart of what would later become the downtown, the congregation began with ten people.
The church grew until 1838, when the "New School-Old School Controversy," a dispute regarding slavery, caused some members to leave and form the Third Street Presbyterian Church. The pastor who preached at Abraham Lincoln's funeral, The Reverend Phineas Gurley, served First Church in Dayton from 1849 to 1854. In 1919, their differences long forgotten, the two churches were reunited. They also launched a Choir College. They chose the name Westminster, both for the church and the Choir College. The current building was completed in 1926. Architect Ralph Adams Cram designed this neo-gothic structure.
The historical records of the church have been transferred to two archive sites:
The Special Collections and Archives department of the Wright State University Library, Dayton, OH: http://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/.
The Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia, PA: www.history.pcusa.org.
Music and Organ History
The Casavant Organ (opus 2670), dedicated in January 1963, was custom designed and built to meet the acoustical and musical requirements of Westminster Church. The organ is really two organs: a Chancel Organ located at the front of the Sanctuary, and a Gallery-Celestial Organ located in the balcony. Each has its own console. Together these organs have over 7,000 pipes arranged in 122 ranks. Every pipe, including those visible from the pews, is a speaking pipe.
Numerous additions and upgrades have taken place over the history of the organ. Lawrence Stofer is responsible for extensive renovations including new pipework and revoicing. During the summer of 2002, a new console was custom built and installed with state-of-the-art technology by the Walker Technical Company of Zionsville, Pennsylvania. In 2007, a Celestial Division, given in memory of Beatrice Jackson, organist at Clough United Methodist Church in Cincinnati for 65 years, was a gift of her brother and sister-in-law, Ray and Sue Merz. In February 2010, a memorial gift from the family and friends of John Bindeman was given for the installation of a Carillon in the Sanctuary. John (Jack) Bindeman was a longtime, dedicated member of the Westminster Choir. With additional gifts given in memory of numerous individuals, the Carillon was configured to sound outdoors through an opening high in the northeast corner of the building. Currently the organ is undergoing restoration by Hunt-Krewson Pipe Organ Services of Dayton.
The Te Deum Window
The focal point in the Sanctuary, is the Stoddard memorial window, a medallion style window, designed by Tiffany studios.
The harsh heat in the summer of 2012 took a particularly heavy toll on this window, necessitating a full restoration, which was conducted 2014-2016.