List of the oldest churches in the United States

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Old Ship Church (1681), the oldest surviving Puritan meeting house in Massachusetts

The designation of the oldest church in the United States requires careful use of definitions, and must be divided into two parts, the oldest in the sense of oldest surviving building, and the oldest in the sense of oldest Christian church congregation. Even here, there is the distinction between old church buildings that have been in continuous use as churches, and those that have been converted to other purposes; and between buildings that have been in continuous use as churches and those that were shuttered for many decades.

In terms of congregations, they are distinguished between early established congregations that have been in continuous existence (despite sometimes great theological changes), and early congregations that ceased to exist. Some of these churches are located in areas that were part of the thirteen original colonies that made up the United States in 1776. Others were built in states and territories that were later annexed, such as New Mexico and Puerto Rico. Sites on the list are generally from the First Period of American architecture or earlier.

To be listed here a site must:

  • be the oldest church in a state, territory, large city (top 50), or oldest of its type (denomination, architectural, etc.);
  • be freestanding (not a ruin or mound...there are separate lists for those); and/or
  • be the oldest congregation of its type (denomination).

Oldest church buildings[edit]

Building Image Location State First Built Denomination Notes
San Miguel Mission Santa Fe San miguel chapel.jpg Santa Fe, New Mexico NM 1610 Roman Catholic Said to be the oldest church structure originally built in the continental US. The original adobe walls and altar were built by the Tlaxcalan Indians from Mexico, but much of the structure was rebuilt in 1710. Building has been within the U.S. since 1848, when the New Mexico territory was annexed.[1]
Jamestown Church Jamestown church ruins bw.jpg Jamestown, Virginia VA 1639-43 Episcopal/Anglican Only the church tower and foundations remain from 1639 [2]
Old Trinity Church, Maryland Maryland Cambridge Old Trinity Church01.jpg Church Creek, Maryland MD 1675 Episcopal/Anglican Church building in continuous use; as such, oldest in the US.[3]
Third Haven Meeting House Thirdhaven.jpg Talbot County, Maryland MD 1681-84 Quaker (Friends) Oldest Quaker meeting house in the United States.
Old Ship Church Old Ship Church Postcard.jpg Hingham, Massachusetts MA 1681 Puritan, Congregational, now Unitarian Universalist Only remaining 17th-century Puritan meetinghouse in the US.[4]
St. Luke's Church Newport parish west facade.jpg Smithfield, Virginia VA 1682 Episcopal/Anglican National Historic Landmark[5]
Old Indian Meeting House Old Indian Meetinghouse.jpg Mashpee, Massachusetts MA 1684 Congregational/Native American Oldest Native American church
King's Chapel Kings chapel boston 2009h.JPG Boston, MA MA 1686 Unitarian Christian Oldest continually used religious site in Boston
Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow Old Dutch Church taken by James Russiello.JPG Sleepy Hollow, New York NY 1685 Dutch Reformed Oldest church building in New York
Old Quaker Meeting House Old-quaker-house-flushing.jpg Flushing, New York NY 1694 Quaker (Friends) Oldest religious building in New York City. The only surviving example in New York State of a typical 17th-century ecclesiastical frame structure of medieval design.[6]
Holy Trinity Church (Old Swedes) Old Swedes Front.JPG Wilmington, Delaware DE 1698 Lutheran/Episcopal Oldest Swedish Church in the United States
Great Friends Meeting House Newport Friends Meetinghouse.JPG Newport, Rhode Island RI 1699 Quaker (Friends) Quaker Meeting House, oldest surviving church in Rhode Island
Gloria Dei
(Old Swedes' Church)
Gloria Dei Church.jpg Philadelphia, Pennsylvania PA 1700 Lutheran/Episcopal Oldest surviving church in Philadelphia
Six Principle Baptist Church Six Principle Baptist Church North Kingstown RI.jpg North Kingstown, Rhode Island RI 1703 Baptist Possibly oldest surviving Baptist church building in the U.S.
St. Mary's Episcopal Church Old St. Mary's Church, West Broad & Wood Streets, Burlington (Burlington County, New Jersey).jpg Burlington NJ 1703 Episcopal Oldest church in New Jersey
St. Andrews Episcopal Church St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, State Route 61, Charleston vicinity (Charleston County, South Carolina).jpg Charleston, South Carolina SC 1706 Episcopal Oldest church in South Carolina
Old Narragansett Church Old Narragansett Church Episcopal in Wickford Rhode Island.jpg Wickford, Rhode Island RI 1707 Episcopal Oldest surviving colonial Episcopal church in Northeastern USA
St. Michael's Church St. Michael's Church, Marblehead.jpg Marblehead, Massachusetts MA 1714 Episcopal Oldest surviving Episcopal church building in New England on its original foundation
Old North Church OldNorthChurchSteeple.JPG Boston, Massachusetts MA 1723 Episcopal Oldest active church building in Boston and a National Historic Landmark, the Old North Church (formal name: Christ Church in the City of Boston) is the location from which the famous signal lanterns are said to have been displayed for Paul Revere's midnight ride during the American Revolution.[7]
Trinity Church, Newport Trinity Church, Newport, RI.jpg Newport, Rhode Island RI 1726 Anglican/Episcopal Oldest Episcopal Parish in Rhode Island
St. John's Episcopal Church Stjohnshampton01.JPG Hampton, Virginia VA 1728 Anglican/Episcopal Oldest Episcopal Parish in the New World
Christ Church DurhamParishChurch 20110626.jpg Nanjemoy, Maryland MD 1732 Episcopal Oldest Episcopal congregation in Maryland
St. Thomas Episcopal Church St. Thomas' Church Bath Beaufort County North Carolina by Frances Benjamin Johnston.jpg Bath, North Carolina NC 1734 Episcopal Oldest church in North Carolina
Augustus Lutheran Church Augustus Lutheran Church, 717 West Main Street, Trappe (Montgomery County, Pennsylvaina).jpg Trappe, Pennsylvania PA 1743 Lutheran Oldest unaltered Lutheran Church in use by the same congregation
St. Michael's Church St. Michael's Episcopal Church, 80 Meeting Street, Charleston (Charleston County, South Carolina).jpg Charleston, South Carolina SC 1752–1761 Episcopal/Anglican Oldest church edifice in Downtown Charleston, SC
St. Paul's Chapel St Paul's Chapel sunny jeh.JPG New York, New York NY 1766 Episcopal Oldest church building in Manhattan
Barratt's Chapel Old Barratt's Chapel (Methodist), Route 113, Frederica vicinity (Kent County, Delaware).jpg Frederica, Delaware DE 1780 Methodist Second oldest Methodist church building in the U.S. built for that purpose (the oldest is St. George's in Philadelphia, PA, built in 1769)
Mission San Juan Capistrano SJC Sanctuary in Serra Chapel - former Sala.jpg San Juan Capistrano CA 1782 Roman Catholic Oldest building in use in California

Oldest Continuous Church Congregations[edit]

Building Image Location State Founded Denomination Notes
St. John's Episcopal Church (Hampton, Virginia) Stjohnshampton01.JPG Hampton, Virginia VA 1610 Episcopal Oldest English-speaking parish in continuous existence in the United States of America, current building from 1728[8]
First Parish Church in Plymouth Town Square Plymouth.JPG Plymouth, Massachusetts MA 1620 Originally Separatist (Calvinist), then Congregational, now Unitarian Universalist Oldest congregation in New England, oldest congregation in Massachusetts (building from 1899), founded by the Pilgrims
Marble Collegiate Church Marble Church NYC.jpg New York, New York NY 1628 Dutch Reformed Oldest church congregation in New York State (building from 1854)
First Church in Boston First Church in Boston MA.jpg Boston, Massachusetts MA 1630 Originally Puritan (Calvinist), then Congregational, now Unitarian Universalist Oldest congregation in Boston, Massachusetts (building from 1968)
Christ Church Christ Church, Stevensville, Maryland.jpg Stevensville, Maryland MD 1632 Episcopal Oldest congregation in Maryland, building from 1880 pictured. (current building from 1995)
First Baptist Church in America First Baptist Meetinghouse, Providence, RI.jpg Providence, Rhode Island RI 1638 Baptist First Baptist Church founded in America, oldest church congregation in Rhode Island, oldest Baptist congregation in America (building from 1775)
First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica New York, New York NY 1662 Presbyterian Oldest Presbyterian church congregation in continuous existence
St. Philip's Episcopal Church (Charleston, South Carolina) St. Philip's Episcopal Church (Charleston, South Carolina).jpg Charleston, SC SC 1681 Episcopal Oldest Episcopal Congregation south of Virginia, present church building 1838
King's Chapel Kings chapel boston 2009h.JPG Boston, MA MA 1686 Unitarian Christian Oldest continually used religious site in Boston
Christ Church, Philadelphia Philadelphia, Pennsylvania PA 1695 Episcopal Oldest Episcopal congregation in Pennsylvania
Trinity Church, New York Trinity Church NYC 004b.JPG New York, NY NY 1697 Episcopal Chartered by King William III in 1697.
Trinity Church, Newport Trinity Church, Newport, RI.jpg Newport, Rhode Island RI 1698 Anglican/Episcopal Oldest Episcopal Parish in Rhode Island
Most Blessed Sacrament Parish Bally, Pennsylvania PA 1741 Roman Catholic Oldest RC Church in the original thirteen colonies still in continuous use in original building, original name St. Paul's Chapel
Mother Bethel AME Church MotherBethelAMEChurchPhila1.jpg Philadelphia PA 1794 African Methodist Episcopal (AME) AME Church and denomination (1816) founded in Philadelphia; oldest congregation in the United States (building from 1890)

By state[edit]

Alabama[edit]

Alaska[edit]

  • Church of the Holy Ascension, Oldest church building, built in 1826 (Russian Orthodox)
  • Russian Orthodox Church in Kodiak Alaska, Oldest congregation, founded in 1794 (Russian Orthodox)
  • Sitka Lutheran Church, Oldest Protestant church congregation, founded in 1839 (Lutheran)

Arkansas[edit]

  • Smyrna Church, Searcy - Oldest church building in the state, built in 1856 (Methodist)[10][11]

Arizona[edit]

California[edit]

  • Emmanuel Church in Coloma, Oldest Protestant church building, built in 1855 (Methodist/Episcopal)
  • Mission San Juan Capistrano, Oldest church building, built in 1782 (Roman Catholic)
  • Mission San Diego de Alcalá, Oldest congregation, founded in 1769 (Roman Catholic)
  • Old First Presbyterian, Oldest Protestant church congregation, founded in 1849 (Presbyterian)

Colorado[edit]

  • Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Antonito, Oldest church building and congregation, built in 1857self-asserted (Roman Catholic)
  • St. James Methodist Church in Central City, Oldest Protestant [12] church in Colorado still used as a church, oldest Protestant congregation (1859) and oldest Protestant church in the state (1871) (Methodist)

Connecticut[edit]

Delaware[edit]

Florida[edit]

  • Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine. Originally established September 8, 1565. Abandoned in 1763, but re-built in 1793. Elevated to Cathedral when Diocese of St. Augustine was created in 1870.
  • Trinity Episcopal Church in St. Augustine is Florida's oldest Episcopal Church. It opened its doors in 1831. Trinity remains on its original site, and with its original steeple that was completed in 1837.
  • Old Christ Church (Pensacola, Florida). Oldest church in Florida on its original foundation, built in 1832 (Episcopal)
  • Mount Beasor Primitive Baptist Church (Sopchoppy, Florida) established in 1853 (Baptist).
  • St. John's Episcopal Church (Tallahassee, Florida). St. John's is the mother church of the Diocese of Florida. It was founded as a mission parish in 1829, and the church's first building was erected in 1837. The Diocese was organized at St. John's in 1838 and Francis Huger Rutledge, who became rector of St. John's in 1845, was consecrated the first Bishop of Florida in 1851. The original church burned in 1879; a new church was built on the same site and consecrated in 1888, and it is still the parish's principal place of worship.[13]

Georgia[edit]

Hawaii[edit]

  • Mokuaikaua Church, Oldest church congregation and building, founded in 1820, built in 1837 (Congregational)
  • Kawaiahao Church, Oldest church congregation, founded in 1820, current structure dedicated in 1842 (Congregational)

Idaho[edit]

Illinois[edit]

  • Church of the Holy Family (Cahokia), Oldest church building, built in 1799 (Roman Catholic)
  • First Baptist Church of Elizabethtown, Oldest Baptist church congregation in Illinois, possibly oldest Protestant church, founded in 1806 (Baptist)
  • Flat Creek Missionary Baptist Church (East Carondelet), Established 1809. Due to its location (Flat Creek Bottom), the people in the area began referring to the church as Flat Creek Baptist Church, although the members officially named the church, “The Missionary Baptist Church of East Carondelet”.
  • Shiloh United Methodist Church (Shiloh, Illinois) established 1807. Current building same location 1825.

Indiana[edit]

Iowa[edit]

Kansas[edit]

  • White Church Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Oldest continuously used church building, built in 1832

Kentucky[edit]

Louisiana[edit]

Maine[edit]

Maryland[edit]

Massachusetts[edit]

Michigan[edit]

Minnesota[edit]

  • Saint Peter's Church (Mendota, Minnesota), Oldest church in continuous use in Minnesota, built in 1853 (Roman Catholic)
  • Wabasha United Church of Christ, Oldest Protestant congregation, founded in 1857 (Congregational)
  • First Presbyterian Church (Stillwater, Minnesota), oldest Presbyterian congregation, founded December 8, 1849.

Missouri[edit]

  • Fee Fee Baptist Church in Bridgeton, Oldest Protestant church congregation, founded in 1807 (Baptist)
  • McKendree Chapel, a log cabin style chapel built in 1819 known as the oldest Protestant church standing west of the Mississippi River; the church was organized in 1809 (Methodist)
  • St. Ferdinand's Shrine, Oldest church building, built in 1821 (Roman Catholic)
  • St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Kansas City, is the oldest Episcopal Church congregation in Missouri, founded in 1857

Mississippi[edit]

  • Woodville Baptist Church, Oldest church building, built in 1809 (Baptist)

Montana[edit]

  • St. Mary's Mission (Montana), Oldest church congregation, founded in 1841 (Roman Catholic)
  • First Baptist Church in Stevensville, Possibly oldest Protestant church building, built in 1882 (Baptist)
  • Melville Lutheran Church, oldest Lutheran congregation, founded in 1885, church building still in use (Lutheran)

Nebraska[edit]

  • First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue, Oldest church building, built in 1856 (Presbyterian)[16]

Nevada[edit]

  • First Presbyterian Church of Carson City, Oldest church building, built in 1864 (Presbyterian)

New Hampshire[edit]

  • First Parish Church in Dover, Oldest congregation founded in 1632 (Congregational/United Church of Christ)
  • Newington Meeting House is the oldest church building in New Hampshire (1717, Congregational).

New Jersey[edit]

New Mexico[edit]

  • First Presbyterian Church in Santa Fe, founded in 1867, Oldest Protestant Church congregation in New Mexico (Presbyterian)
  • San Miguel Mission, Oldest church building, built in 1610 (Roman Catholic)
  • San Juan de los Caballeros/San Juan Bautista, Established 1598, second oldest foundation in the United States (Roman Catholic)

New York[edit]

North Carolina[edit]

North Dakota[edit]

  • First Presbyterian Church of Bismarck, Oldest congregation, founded in 1873 (Presbyterian)
  • Glencoe Presbyterian Church, Oldest church building used by original congregation, built in 1885 (Presbyterian)
  • First Congregation, Assumption Catholic Church in Pembina, 1818

Ohio[edit]

Oklahoma[edit]

Ottawa Indian Baptist Church founded in march of 1840 estb. built in Oklahoma in March 1860

Oregon[edit]

Pennsylvania[edit]

Puerto Rico[edit]

  • Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, Oldest church building, built in 1521 (Roman Catholic)
  • San Jose Church, Iglesia de San Jose, was constructed in the 1530s by Dominican friars to for use by their Saint Thomas Aquinas monastery. The church is located in Old San Juan. (Roman Catholic)
  • Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Ponce, Oldest Protestant church, founded in 1872 (Anglican)

Rhode Island[edit]

South Carolina[edit]

South Dakota[edit]

Tennessee[edit]

  • Sinking Creek Baptist Church, Oldest church building, Oldest congregation and building, founded in 1772 (Baptist)
  • Suggs Creek Cumberland Presbyterian, First Confession of Faith of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church was adopted in 1814, Suggs Creek church founded in 1800 (Cumberland Presbyterian)

Texas[edit]

  • Cathedral of San Fernando, Possibly oldest church building, built 1738-1750 (Roman Catholic)
  • McMahan Chapel in St. Augustine, the oldest Protestant church congregation in Texas, founded in 1833 (Methodist)
  • San Felipe United Methodist Church, the oldest Protestant church building in Texas, built in 1838 (Methodist)
  • Ysleta Mission, Possibly the oldest continuous congregation, founded in 1680 (Roman Catholic)
  • Our Lady of Loreto Chapel, at the Presidio La Bahia, Goliad, founded in 1779 (Roman Catholic)

Utah[edit]

Vermont[edit]

Virginia[edit]

Washington[edit]

Washington, D.C.[edit]

West Virginia[edit]

  • Rehoboth Church, oldest church building, built in 1785 (Methodist), and oldest church building west of the main range of the Allegheny Mountains.

Wisconsin[edit]

  • Methodist Episcopal Church in Mineral Point, Oldest Protestant congregation in Wisconsin, founded in 1834 (Methodist)
  • St. Gabriel’s Church, Oldest church building built in Wisconsin, built in 1835 (Roman Catholic)
  • St. Joan of Arc's Chapel, Oldest church building in Wisconsin, built in 15th century Chasse, France; moved to Wisconsin 1965 (Roman Catholic)

Wyoming[edit]

See also[edit]

Old St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church was founded in 1733. It has always been staffed by Jesuit priest. Founded by Fr. Greaton.

External links and references[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.nosfarchives.org/sanmiguel.html
  2. ^ Nellie Urner Wallington , Historic Churches of America, 1907, p. 8
  3. ^ a b "Old Trinity Church HABS MD No. 201". Historic American Buildings Survey. US National Park Service. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  4. ^ "Old Ship Church", National Park Service
  5. ^ W. Eugene Kleinbauer, Modern Perspectives in Western Art History: An Anthology, Medieval Academy of America, 1989, p. 315
  6. ^ National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings, 1970
  7. ^ Fischer 1994, p. 99.
  8. ^ a b Tormey, James (April 2009). How Firm a Foundation. Richmond, VA: Diets Press. p. 184. ISBN 978-0-87517-135-7. 
  9. ^ http://www.ruralswalabama.org/attractions/indian-springs-baptist-church-ca-1825-near-mcwilliams-al/
  10. ^ Patsy Pipkin, "Walk Through History event brings to life memories of Smyrna Church", Arkansas Online, 13 Dec 2009, accessed 27 Sep 2010
  11. ^ "Restoration Almost Complete for Arkansas 85", Texarkana Gazette, 27 Sep 2010, accessed 27 Sep 2010
  12. ^ Hostetter, Lance. "Prayer, worship and community keep Conejos flock strong". Valley Courier. NewsMedia Corp., Alamosa, Colorado. Retrieved 25 Nov 2012. 
  13. ^ "History & Description of St. John's". 
  14. ^ "First Parish Church". Meeting House History. First Parish Congregational Church of York. 2009. Retrieved 13 December 2010. 
  15. ^ Farmer, John (1838). "Memoirs of Ministers". In E. Cornelius (and others). Quarterly register and journal of the American education society. The American quarterly register. 
  16. ^ http://1stpresbvue.org/
  17. ^ http://www.sciway.net/sc-photos/charleston-county/edisto-island-presbyterian.html
  18. ^ James Dillon (23 April 1976). National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: St. James' Church, Goose Creek PDF (32 KB). National Park Service.  and Accompanying five photos, exterior and interior, from 1975 and 1970 PDF (32 KB)