Downtown in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
New York Avenue Presbyterian Church at Herald Square
Civil War to Civil Rights
—Downtown Heritage Trail —
“The churches are needed as never before for divine services,” President Abraham Lincoln
So said President Lincoln from his pew in New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. While other churches were occupied by the federal government for offices and hospitals during the Civil War, Lincoln insisted this church remain open for worship. The pastor, Dr. Phineas D. Gurley, was the president’s spiritual guide through the war and during the fatal illness of Lincoln’s young son, Willie, who on his deathbed left his small savings of $5 to the church.
President Lincoln regularly traveled the short distance from the White House to attend this church, a congregation founded by Presbyterian carpenters on the grounds of the White House in 1793. Lincoln’s hitching post remains outside; his pew still stands in this somewhat enlarged, 1950s replica of the original church. President Lincoln also found solace in the church’s midweek Bible classes. He sequestered himself in an adjacent room with the door ajar lest he disturb others with his presence.
A document in Lincoln’s handwriting, proposing that the federal government end slavery by paying owners to free their slaves, is displayed in the church’s Lincoln parlor. The plan was carried out only in Washington, D.C.
The church dominates an area now
above and left:
President Lincoln, seen here with his family in a portrait by William Sartain, attended New York Avenue Presbyterian Church regularly (National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; National Portrait Gallery) . Left, a version of the Emancipation Proclamation (Smithsonian Institution - Gift of Marvin Sadik).
New York Avenue Presbyterian Church as it looked when the Lincolns attended (National Archives). The president used the hitching post, left, that remains on New York Avenue. (Richard Bush).
Eleanor Medill “Cissy” Patterson at her desk as publisher of the Times-Herald for which this square is named (C. Bettmann /CORBISS).
[Times-Herald headline, November 1940: “Roosevelt Wins!”] (The Washington Post Company.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Civil War to Civil Rights marker series.
Location. 38° 53.994′ N, 77° 1.852′ W. Marker is in Downtown, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on New York Avenue, NW (U.S. 50) west of H Street, NW. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20005, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Historic New York Avenue Presbyterian Church (a few steps from this marker); Dorothea Dix 1802 - 1887 (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Church of the Epiphany (about 600 feet away); W.E.B. DuBois 1868 - 1963 & Mary White Ovington 1865-1951 (about 600 feet away); Luther and Charlotte Gulick (about 600 feet away); Jane Addams 1860 - 1935 (about 600 feet away); Susan B. Anthony 1820 - 1906 (about 600 feet away); Harriet Tubman circa 1820 - 1913 (about 600 feet away). Click for a list of all markers in Downtown.
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker. To better understand the relationship, study each marker in the order shown.
Also see . . .
1. New York Avenue Presbyterian Church: History. (Submitted on July 11, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
2. Cissy Patterson. (Submitted on July 11, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
Additional keywords. journalism
Categories. • Abolition & Underground RR • Churches, Etc. • Politics • War, US Civil •
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 1,133 times since then and 87 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on , by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 6. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.