The Old Stone Church is the oldest surviving building on Public Square and is home to the First Presbyterian congregation, the second oldest religious organization in Cleveland. The church that stands today was built in 1855 and replaced an earlier church, called by the same name, which was completed in the early 1830s. Major renovations were undertaken in 1857 and 1884 after two fires gutted the church’s interior.
The First Presbyterian Church was officially established in 1820 by a congregation that had previously met for Union Sunday School in Cleveland’s first log courthouse. The church was incorporated seven years later as the First Presbyterian Society. In 1831, construction of the original Old Stone Church began, and it was completed in 1833 or 1834 (sources differ). This Georgian Revival-style building was razed in 1853 to make way for a new Romanesque Revival stone church. The firm of Heard & Porter (assisted by master builder Wareham J. Warner) designed the updated church, which was finished in 1855. Charles Heard had previously designed several residences in Cleveland while Simeon Porter worked on projects for the Case Western Reserve University. The Old Stone Church is the last of their churches standing today.
The church had to be renovated twice in the 1800s because of two separate fires. The first, in 1857, ravaged the interior and destroyed a 228-foot-tall steeple. Heard and Porter were hired to repair the inside of the church. A new spire was added in 1868 to the east tower, but it had to be removed after another fire devastated the church in 1884. This time, Charles F. Schweinfurth worked to restore the church’s interior to its former glory. During the process, glass windows by Louis Tiffany and John LaFarge and frescoes by Julius Schweinfurth were added. Since then, the Old Stone Church’s exterior sandstone walls have adopted a gray hue due to the surrounding city’s pollution.