(former) First Presbyterian Church Lincolnton
- 15,700 square feet
- Lot Size: 0.91 acres / Zoning: Central Business
, Regional Director
Preservation NC, Western Office
An Ecclesiastical gem seeking rebirth and new purpose in the heart of downtown Lincolnton! Ideal for adaptive reuse for mixed uses, including co-working space.
After 206 years as a congregation, the First Presbyterian Church of Lincolnton has closed this church campus while starting a new mission church. The Presbytery of Western NC approached PNC and entered into an agreement in order to ensure the important campus will be both preserved and able to enjoy a new life.
Individually listed in the National Register and adjacent to the West Main Street National Register district, this handsome complex was in use until COVID and has been well maintained. It is located within a block of the historic Lincoln County Courthouse and one-half block of City Hall in the center of flourishing downtown Lincolnton.
Architectural and Historical Information
The (former) First Presbyterian Church of Lincolnton features the combined genius of two gifted and nationally recognized architects. The original Late Gothic Revival structure was constructed in 1917 and designed by noted Charlotte architect C.C. Hook, one of the first and most prolific leaders in the state’s early 20th century architectural profession. Hook was the architect of choice for many wealthy North Carolinians; his work includes James B. Duke House in Charlotte, Benjamin Duke’s home in Durham (now demolished), and Hambley-Wallace House in Salisbury. He designed handsome courthouses, college buildings, hospitals, churches, and many other public buildings from Wilmington to Blowing Rock. For more information, go to ncarchitects.lib.ncsu.edu
Forty years later, the 1957 mid-century restrained Gothic Revival Educational Building was designed by Harold E. Wagoner of Philadelphia, himself a Presbyterian, who is known as a prominent mid- twentieth-century American ecclesiastical architect. Wagoner designed many notable churches including the masterpiece of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale Florida, the National Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C., and the interior of the United States Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel. Wagoner also designed a number of notable NC churches including Presbyterian churches in Kinston, Gastonia, Shelby, and Chapel Hill; Methodist Churches in High Point and Fayetteville; and St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Charlotte.
The 1917 Gothic Revival structure was built in a modified version of the “Akron-plan,” which was prevalent in most mainline Protestant churches from 1872 to the early 1920s during the exponential growth of the Sunday School movement. The Akron-plan in this church features a row of Sunday School classrooms opening up to the central main theatre-style sanctuary that has beautifully restored pine flooring (with a slight slope), exquisite stained-glass windows (some of which were re-used from their previous 1890s church structure), a working pipe organ dating to 1988 (using much of a previous 1920 instrument), original hanging light fixtures, and traditional woodwork, but an understated chancel. The main sanctuary space is essentially a square in plan and designed on a north-south axis, which is off-axis with the front elevation. No two of the four interior elevations are alike.
The 1957 Educational Building features four large classrooms on the main level and a large fellowship hall with an elevated stage and adjoining kitchen. The Fellowship Hall exhibits a beautiful tall wood sheathed gable-form ceiling with exposed laminated beams characteristic of so many mid-century modern churches. Also, of note are the classic “space age” mid-century circular hanging lights in the classrooms.
A small non-descript utility building on the premises, while listed as a “noncontributing” structure, is believed to have been a slave house for the David Ramsour House (ca. 1820) which occupied the property years ago. In light of this, the building will also be included for protection by PNC, and more historic research will be encouraged to get the full story behind this potentially telling piece of history.
The opportunities for this property are many, including re-use as a church, repurposing for an institutional facility, event venue, in-town housing and mixed-use space, as well as live-work or the increasingly popular co-working space. The building is eligible for both the Federal and State Historic Tax Credits.
Lincolnton (incorporated in 1785) has a rich heritage, being the second oldest town west of the Catawba River. Downtown Lincolnton is a National Register Historic District and part of the North Carolina Main Street program. Close to booming Charlotte and an international airport, the town is enjoying a renaissance with exciting new restaurants, antique stores, boutique clothing and jewelry stores, offices, plus a new music store and a recording studio. A growing restaurant and craft brewery movement is creating opportunities for entrepreneurs and leading the charge to redevelop and repurpose historic buildings. As part of the Carolina Thread Trail, the Cloninger Rail Trail passes through the heart of downtown and connects three city parks. Also located in downtown Lincolnton is City Hall, County offices, the James Warren Civic Center, beautiful churches, the Lincoln Cultural Center (also housed in a renovated grand historic church), the historic Pleasant Retreat Academy, banks, and other convenient services. Lincolnton possesses some of the state’s most distinguished early 19th-century brick houses.
Lincolnton is located on the “quiet side” of Charlotte and has maintained its small-town charm while offering big-city opportunities. Downtown Charlotte is less than an hour away. It’s only a half-hour to I-40, I-85 and I-77 in the heart of the North Carolina Piedmont — with easy access to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and Asheville, and close to rivers, lakes, state parks and a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities. The Charlotte Douglas International Airport, the 11th busiest airport in the country, is 35 minutes away.
Inspiration for adaptive reuse: