First Presbyterian Church has been a foundation of the downtown faith community throughout its history.
The church began with eleven members on February 3, 1856, one day after Dallas was incorporated as a city, and was founded by the Rev. Robert Hamilton Byers, stated supply pastor for Presbyterian churches in Rusk and Henderson counties. It lacked a formal place of worship so members met at various times in private homes, a blacksmith shop, a lumber yard, the courthouse, and a printing shop. Not until 1873 was the congregation able to erect its first owned building - a small frame structure at Elm and Ervay streets (later the site of the Wilson Building). As Dallas grew, First Presbyterian Church kept pace. Its second home was built in 1882 at Harwood and Main streets, the first brick church in Dallas.
By 1897 this structure had been enlarged and so extensively remodeled that it was considered to be a new (third) building. The style was Victorian eclectic. On March 2, 1913, the congregation moved into its fourth and present home, occupying a commanding position at the turn where Harwood Street intersects Wood Street.
First Presbyterian Church stands as cultural landmark in downtown Dallas, as well. As the first U.S. (Southern) Presbyterian Church organized in Dallas, it is the mother church from which many other Presbyterian churches in the area have stemmed. Since the initial disbursement of food and clothing to the needy by its pioneer women, the congregation has been in the forefront of care for the disadvantaged. At the turn of the century, the need to house the city's orphaned and abandoned children was paramount. First Presbyterian Church began such a home at Annex and Bryan Streets. Today a state historical marker stands at the entrance to the Presbyterian Children's Home and Service Agency in Itasca, Texas, tracing the institution's roots to this Dallas church.
The Children's Medical Center, adjacent to the University of Texas Health-Science Center of Dallas, had its beginning as a clinic for small children in the basement of First Presbyterian Church in 1921. It was the first free clinic in the Southwest.
When the congregation began its Stewpot ministry to street people in 1975, the volunteer program ignited the concern and support of the entire community - individuals, other churches, foundations, businesses, and the city government. The Stewpot and its many related ministries, developing over the past decade, have received national recognition and today serve as models for other churches/cities.