Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta was built in 1885, replacing the original building which was severely damaged during the Civil War. The present building was designed in English Gothic style, with a front facade of rough cut limestone and the rest of the walls of plain brick. The roof is in a pyramid shape and the church has a high bell tower. and the original stained glass windows. Inside, the building still has its original stairs, wainscoting, walls, and altar area.
But it is the church’s long commitment to serving the community that makes it such an important part of Atlanta’s history.
From the late 1800’s, Central Presbyterian has been dedicated to social service in the community. This service began with the launch of mission Sunday Schools and five new churches within five years. By 1907, the church had established the Atlanta Union Mission to aid the homeless. In 1912, the Young Women’s Bible Class took on the cause of the young single women who were flooding into the city to work in the factories, and who often had no safe place to stay. Low wages and high rents often led these women to fall into prostitution to support themselves. Central Presbyterian helped provide safe and affordable dormitories to provide a real alternative for these women.The Church took a strong pro-Union stand in 1913-1916, allowing striking workers the use of the building and otherwise supporting them in their search for fair working condtions. (This was a time when there was no minimum wage, no safety standards, no limit on the hours employers could demand, and no laws against child labor.)
In the 1920’s, a free public health clinic for the babies and children of needy families was a part of the ministry. This work still continues as Mercy Health Care Services.
As the years rolled by, Central Presbyterian continued to expand its services to the community, establishing child care programs in the 1970’s and opening a shelter, a weekly medical clinic, and a food pantry for the homeless and needy in the 1980’s. In the 1990’s, an Outreach Center was established with counselors to help the needy find work, shelter, medical aid and to meet other needs throughout Atlanta. In 2000, the church joined with Decatur Cooperative to offer temporary housing to those who were leaving homeless shelters.
Central Presbyterian continues to be an involved, caring community church, serving both the spiritual and physical needs of Atlanta citizens as it has done for more than 100 years. Its impact on Atlanta’s social history can hardly be measured. It is an architectural, social, and spiritual treasure of the city.