Great Churches of the World: the First Presbyterian Church in Salt Lake City

Many who are familiar with the architecture in Salt Lake City know about the First Presbyterian Church, but few are away of its full story and history. Many people recognize this building as belonging to the National Register of Historic Places, but not all know about its hidden treasures and features. Within the First Presbyterian Church are some of the world’s most beautiful stained glass windows, renowned for both their colossal size and beauty.

The construction for the First Presbyterian Church was completed in the mid 1800’s, shortly after the arrival of the Transcontinental Railroad. The railroad brought a large mormon population to Salt Lake City, so the church felt a need for a new protestant congregation. The building was designed in alliance with the Gothic Revival trend that was occurring at the time and was built from locally quarried red stone butte and fashioned with a hard stone trim.

In later years, three large stained glass windows were added to the church. The stained glass was created by a Minneapolis studio known as R. T. Giles and Co. and almost instantly gained fame due to its incredible beauty. Biblical scenes and imagery are handpainted on the glass which show immense attention to detail and display luminous colors. For years, they attracted the attention of the public and drew many to visit the church.

But alas, in 1906, the church walls encountered a powerful storm and one of the stained glass windows was badly damaged. With great effort, much of the original glass and design were preserved but some alterations had to be made. Three crosses were added to the window, a renovation which cost the church more than $3,000.

However, ever since this small incident, the stained glass has held strong and remained mostly intact. In 2003, cleaning was required and the panels were dismantled and reassembled. But for the most part, the historic work remains the same as it did since its construction over 100 years ago. Today, tourists from all over the country continue to visit the First Presbyterian Church in Salt Lake City to see the beautiful stained glass.

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