The downtown area was the locale of the beginnings of most of the religious denominations in St. Louis and several prominent churches still survive within its boundaries. The oldest of these is the Old Roman Ca,tholic Cathedral, which was constructed in 1834. It is the fourth church structure to be built upon the block which was set aside for church purposes by Laclede. This beautiful old Greek Revival edifice now occupies an important position adjacent to the riverfront park. Another cathedral downtown is that of Christ Church Episcopal at Thirteenth end Locust Streets. This Gothic structure was begun before the Civil War and was finally finished in 1867. The tower was added in l91O. This church was organized in 1819 and;met in a house at the corner of Second and Walnut Streets. It was disbanded in 1821 and reorganized in 1825, meeting in a Baptist Church until its own building was finished at Third and Chestnut Streets in 1829. The congregation occupied a larger building at Fifth and Chestnut Streets in 1839, which served until the removal to the present building.
Among other downtown Episcopalian churches was St. Paul's organized as a mission in 1839 at Fifth and Wash (Cole) Streets. In 1859, it moved to its own building at 17th and Olive Streets, but this was sold to satisfy a debt and the congregation merged with Christ Church. St. John's Episcopal, Church was organized in 1841 on Second near Plum Street. Later it had churches on Spruce Street at Fifth in 1843 and at Sixth in 1853. It moved to Hickory and Dolman Street in 1872 and is now located on Arsenal west of Grand. Other Roman Catholic churches downtown besides the Old Cathedral were St. Francis Xavier, the College Church for St. Louis University, which was built in 1842 at Ninth and Christy (Lucas) Streets. It was used until the church and college moved to Grand and Lindell in the late 1880's. St. Mary's German Catholic Church was built at Third and Mulberry Streets in 1843 and is now known as the Church of St. Mary of Victories.
While St. Louis was predominantly Catholic in its colonial times, Protestants from the east coast began to arrive here during the time of the Spanish Commander Trudeau, who allowed them to hold services in their hdmes provided they did not call it a church or attempt to christen children in any other faith but Catholic. Any non-Catholic worship was forbidden by law. After the Louisiana Purchase, Protestants arrived here in greater numbers. The earliest attempt at church organization was made by the Baptists who built a log church on Fee-Fee Road near St. Charles Road in 1807. Their first church in the town of St. Louis was organized in February 1818 at the southwest corner of Third and Market Streets. It was said to be the only building on the south side of Market from the river to Fourth Street at that time. The First Baptist Church became extinct in 1833 when it was transferred to the Second Baptist, which started in 1832 on Market below Second Street in rooms of a house. It occupied the former Episcopalian Church at Third and Chestnut in 1839. A larger church was built at Sixth and Locust in 1848, and was used until 1872 when it moved to Locust and Beaumont.
The Third Baptist Church had its beginning in 1850 on Market Street, near 13th. It built a church at 14th and Clark Avenue in 1854 and occupied it until it moved to its present location at Grand and Washington Avenues in 1885. Presbyterians were first organized here by Rev. Salmon Giddings in November 1817, in a schoolroom opposite the Courthouse. The First Presbyterian Church was erected in 1825 on the west side of Fourth Street near Washington Avenue. The congregation erected an impressive Gothic edifice in 1855 at Lucas Place and 14th Street. It was said to have the tallest steeple in the city. This structure was abandoned in 1889 and was converted into a theater. First Presbyterian moved to Sarah and Washington in that same year. The Second Presbyterian Church was founded in October 1838 in temporary quarters at Fifth and Pine Streets.
A large Greek Revival structure was occupied in 1840 on the northwest corner of Fifth and Walnut. Following the same westward trend practiced by most churches of the time, a move was made in 1870 to a large Gothic structure at 17th and Locust. The Washington Avenue Church was organized in 1844 in a tobacco warehouse at Sixth and Washington and occupied its own building in 1845 up the way at Eighth Street. In 1853, it moved to 11th and Pine and changed its name to the Pine Street Church. Soon thereafter, it merged with what later became Westminster Presbyterian Church, which dated back to 1846, and had a church at Fifth and Locust after 1848. The combined churches used the Pine Street building until 1880 when they moved to a chapel at Grand and Washington. The Central Presbyterian Church began as the Fourth Street Church in 1844 and acquired its present name in 1846 when it met in a small building at Sixth and St. Charles Streets. In 1849, it moved to its own building at Eighth and Locust where it remained until 1873, then moving to Lucas and Garrison Avenues.
The First Methodist Church South was founded in 1821 in a house on Fourth Street near the Courthouse, moving in the next year to a frame chapel at Fourth and Myrtle (Clark) Streets. In 1830, it became known as the Fourth Street Church, when it occupied a church at Fourth and Washington. In 1854 it was located at Eighth and Washington and in 1883 moved to the former Y.M.C.A. at Eleventh and Locust, finally leaving the downtown area in 1884 when it relocated at Glasgow Avenue and Dayton Street.
Centenary Methodist was organized in 1839 and erected its own church at Fifth and Pine Streets in 1844. The church's present home at Fifteenth and Pine was occupied in 1870. Its nearby neighbor, St. John's Roman Catholic Basilica dates from 1858. Another early Methodist church downtown was the Union Church, which was an outgrowth of the Ebenezer Chapel which began in 1845 on Washington near Seventh. It closed 1861 because of dissension over the slavery ilssue, but reopened in the following year as Union M.E. Church in the former Union Presbyterian Church at Eleventh and Locust Streets. This was sold to the Y.M.C.A. in 1882, when Union Church moved westward to Lucas and Garrison Avenues.
First Christian Church was organized in 1840, meeting in various locations until it located at Sixth and Franklin in 1845 and in 1852 on Fifth near Franklin. In 1863, the church purchased the former St. Paul's Episcopal Church at 17th and Olive Streets.
The present Union Avenue Christian Church began in 1871 in a hall at 14th and St. Charles Streets, relocating in 1875 at 23rd and Washington. It was then known as the Central Christian Church, acquiring its present name in 1904.
The Congregational denomination began in St. Louis as an offshoot of the Third Presbyterian Church in 1852, then on Sixth Street near Franklin. A new church at Tenth and Locust Streets was started in 1855 and named the First Trinitarian Church. This was occupied until 1879 when a westward move was made to a chapel at Grand and Delmar.
German Evangelical churches began here in 1834 when the Church of the Holy Ghost was organized. The church at Seventh and Clark was used jointly with the Lutherans until 1842 when the congregation began worshipping at the Benton School building on Sixth near St. Charles. Two churches were built by the Evangelical denomination in 1845, these were North Church (later St. Peter's) at Sixth and Franklin and South Church (later St. Marcus) at Jackson and Soulard Streets. The Independent Evangelical Church of the Holy Ghost began in 1834 in the Methodist Church at Fourth and Washington. After several moves, it moved into its own church at Eighth and Walnut, where it remained until 1898 when it moved to Grand and Page.
The Lutherans organized their first church in St. Louis in 1839, when they were invited to worship in Christ Episcopalian Church at Fifth and Chestnut Streets. In 1842, they occupied a chapel on Lombard between Third and Fourth Streets, naming the Church trinity Lutheran. They relocated at Eighth Street and Lafayette Avenue in 1865.
The first Jewish congregation in St. Louis, that of the United Hebrews, was formed in 1837 in a house on Locust Street near Third. In 1848, they located on Broadway near Lucas and in 1859, on Sixth Street between Locust and St. Charlles. They moved to 21st and Olive in 1880 and to Kingshigway and Enright in 1903. Their present temple on Skinker near Wydown was occupied in 1926.
The Congregation Shaare Emeth or Temple of the Gates of Truth was organized in 1866 and occupied their temple at 17th and Pine Streets in 1869. They relocated at Lindell and Vandeventer in 1895. The B'nai Amoona congregation was founded in 1882 at Ninth and Washington, moving in 1884 to 11th and Franklin, and in 1888 to 13th and Carr. After merging with the Scheerith Israel Congregation, they moved to Garrison and Lucas Avenues in 1906.
The Unitarian Church of the Messiah was organized in 1834 in schoolrooms on Market Street opposite the Courthouse. Their first services were held on the third floor of the Masonic Halll at Main and Locust Streets. In 1837, they built a church at Fourth and Pine and moved in 1851 to a large Gothic ediface on the northwest corner of Ninth and Olive Streets. Due to the commercialization of the area at Ninth Street, the church was sold in 1879 and converted into Pope's Theater. When the Century Building was built on that corner in 1896, the Century Theater was located on the same site. The Church of the Messiah moved in 1880 to a new stone church at Garrison Avenue and Locust Street.
The First Church of Christ Scientist was founded in 1894 in the Beethoven Conservatory at 1603 Olive Street and in the following year constructed a church on Pine Street east of Leffingwell.
Mormons came to St. Louis while on their quest for the promised land in 1831, after the church's founder had a revelation that they must "go speedily to a place called St. Louis.'' Some stayed here and established a church for their flourishing local colony. After meeting in homes and rented halls for some years, the Mormons (or Latter Day Saints) rented a former Methodist church at Fourth and Washington in 1854. The church went into a decline after the Civil War and did not revive sufficiently to reestablish a regular meeting place until 1916, when a church was purchased on Maple Avenue. The present church in St. Louis Hills was built in 1949.