The West Baton Rouge Presbyterian Church celebrated its 80th anniversary and the renowned Louisiana architect who designed the church on Sunday, Jan. 27.
The Presbytery Commission organized The West Baton Rouge Presbyterian Church on Jan. 29, 1939, making it the first non-Catholic church in the parish.
The church's rich history began in 1904, when Dr. T.M. Hunter, pastor of First Presbyterian in Baton Rouge started preaching monthly services in Chamberlin, just north of Port Allen. As Port Allen grew in population, services moved to Port Allen Elementary. In 1913, the old Homestead Store on the corner of River Road and Rosedale Road hosted Sunday School and Church services. Until 1939, the church was named the Church of the Covenant.
In 1927, Mr. George Hill donated the upper story of the old Homestead home and a plot of land to the church for services. Soon after, the building was remodeled into a sanctuary and four classrooms.
Around 1928, the group had grown, and the congregation represented many denominations among the members. Ministers from other denominations took turns supplying the pulpit each Sunday.
In 1937, the Rev. James Gregory, assistant pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Baton Rouge became the minister of the congregations.
Since the majority of the group was Presbyterian, they petitioned the Louisiana Presbytery to become a Presbyterian church.
On January 29, 1929, the Presbytery Commission organized the church as a Presbyterian church. The organizing minister Rev. Gregory lived in Baton Rouge and commuted. The church bought the Manse in 1943. One year later, construction began on the Education Building and a large room for worship services. The project was completed in 1955, and the sanctuary was dedicated in 1961.
Two plaques now adorn the church’s front walls recognizing renowned Louisiana architect A. Hays Town as the architect for the sanctuary.
Town, whose career spanned for over sixty-five years, designed modern commercial and governmental buildings and became known for his residential architecture, which was heavily influenced by the Spanish, French, and Creole history of Louisiana.
His work was featured in several publications during his lifetime, including Time, Life, Southern Living, and Southern Accents. Today, an estimated 1,000 homes designed and built by Town remain. His distinct style continues to exert an influence on modern southern architecture.
Town's daughter and granddaughter attended the service in remembrance and recognition, and at the time of the church's construction, Town's son was the church's contractor.
"[The church's design] makes a statement of strength, but it's not threatening. It is majestic and elegant--it flows. It's strong--these exposed brick walls, these big beams overhead, it gives you an idea that you can be safe in this beautiful place," Rev. James Sawyer said.