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In 2005, First Presbyterian Chuch was one of the first buildings marked with new Historic Preservation Committee markers. At the time it was discovered the building was really two buildings and further research showed it was really three buildings -- the original wood structure moved to this location, the bricking and adding the basement to the building at the current location, and parts of an Atlanta Church that was being demolished were added.


  • First Presbyterian Church of Villa Rica, Photograph by Ernest E. Blevins, MFA 26 May 2005
  • The 1885 wood sheathing under the 1930 brick sheathing.  Photo by Ernest E. Blevins, MFA, 14 July 2005.
  • Wesley Memorial Chapel from O'Neal Photograph Collection, Georgia State University.
  • City of Villa Rica Historic Preservation Committee plaque using both dates for the church. Photo by Ernest E. Blevins, MFA, 14 July 2005.
  • Some of the stained glass windows original to Wesley Memorial Church in Atlanta and installed in First Presbyterian Villa Rica ca. 1964-1965. Photo by Ernest E. Blevins, MFA, 14 July 2005.
  • Interior of First Presbyterian Villa Rica Church.  Photo by Ernest E. Blevins, MFA, 14 July 2005.

The Villa Rica Presbyterian Church building has a long history which includes the history of three buildings.  Locally, the structure if significant and fascinating in itself, however, more interestingly is some of the history behind some parts of the church.

The Villa Rica Presbyterian Church was organized in 1855.[1]  It was not until 1885 that a small white church was built on the northeast corner of Candler Street and Sweetwater Street (now Church Street). This is the lot occupied by the 1956 warehouse at 105 Church Street (formally 310 Sweetwater).[2]  This land was presented by J. N. Wilson.[3]  This small wood structure was heated by stoves and had electric lights.[4]  Construction was completed with the efforts of W.B. Candler among others including J.N. Wilson.[5]  The site of this church is surrounded by a Villa Rica Lumber which appears in property deeds in February 1890.[6] The lumberyard in 1923 and in the 1933 shows its expansion into the old church property.[7]   

            In 1930 the wooden structure was moved to 519 Main Street.  The land was donated by W.B. Candler, Clerk of Session from 1888-1921, to the church upon his death.  The property transfer was filed 18 June 1930 in consideration of the sum “as memorial to W. B. Candler, Sr. and Mrs. Elizabeth Slaughter Candler, deceased, and other considerations.”[8]  Candler’s former house served as the Manse and Sunday school from 1930 to 1998.  It later was used for Sunday school and fellowship activities.  It was demolished in 1998 for a few fellowship hall.[9]  In 1975 the church built a new Manse as Twin Lakes.[10] 

The slope of the lot was used to create basement for Sunday school rooms.  Significantly, the 1885 wooden structure was retained.  This original sheathing was covered with brick.  This brickwork enclosed the basement and created a unified brick look.  Corner buttresses add a modernized yet classical feel to the building especially when viewing the eastern façade the chimneys register to the eye as central buttresses.  A cornerstone was placed dating the church as “rebuilt” in 1930.[11]  The portico is a post move addition as no portico appears on the Sanborn Map of 1923.[12] In 2000-2001 the basement and the sanctuary were renovated.[13]  In 2002 the front steps were replaced and the parking lot was paved.  The ghost of the street which extends Cheves appears on the 1933 Sanborn map is still visible in the lining of the parking lot and property tax maps.[14]  Property records do not reveal the hidden 1885 building.

 One of the more fascinating aspects of the Villa Rica Presbyterian Church is the connection to Atlanta. 

In late 1964 or early 1965, the church added the mahogany pews, pulpit, and the stained glass windows.  These date back to 1907-1910 and were originally parts of the Wesley Memorial Church in Atlanta. In 1963, the Wesley Memorial Church was in disrepair so the property was sold for development.[15]  These were purchased from Wesley Memorial Church which was demolished in September 1964 for 30 story office building.[16] The stained glass windows are irreplaceable since the formula has been lost.[17]   Other stained glass windows were placed in the chapel at Young Harris College, a small Methodist school in Young Harris, Georgia.  The seats and the pipe organ were installed at the new Young Harris College auditorium under construction in 1964.[18]

The Wesley Memorial Church was a four story building located on Auburn Avenue and Ivy Street.  When Emory University moved to Atlanta, they used the church’s facilities for establishing the School of Theology in 1914 with Bishop Warren A. Candler as chancellor.[19] Among those that spoke at Wesley Chapel were Will Rogers, Judith Anderson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill as well as Emory’s 1915 commencement used the 2,800 seat auditorium.[20]  Asa Candler with his younger brother Bishop Warren A. Candler founded the Wesley Memorial Enterprises. [21]  Asa and Warren A. Candler were uncles to W.B. Candler.[22]  Asa G. Candler assisted with donating $50,000.  Later Wesley Memorial Chapel served as Wesley Memorial Hospital and later Emory Hospital.[23] Interestingly enough, the site of the original wooden Wesley Memorial Chapel (which was organized in 1903) on Peachtree Street is the site of the 1904-1906 Candler Building, built by Asa Candler.[24]

Besides money, windows, and furnishings from Wesley Memorial Chapel, there is another Candler family connection.  At least three weddings at Villa Rica Presbyterian are known to be officiated by Warren A. Candler.[25] 

In 2005, as the congregation celebrates its 150th anniversary, the first building will pass its 120th anniversary and the visible building will celebrate its 75th anniversary.  The building is a true historical gem of Villa Rica history and its connections to the rest of Georgia.


[1] First Presbyterian Church History, supplied to Historic Preservation Committee, May 2005, copied from book probably produced by the Church.

“First Presbyterian Church  of Villa Rica, PCA: A Brief History of Our Church,”  http://www.firstpcavillarica.org/history.htm (accessed 21 July 2005)

[2] Villa Rica Sanborn Map, 1923 and 1933

Carroll County Tax Assessor Records, property number V05 0160001 (11 August 2005).

[3] Carroll County Deed Book Y, p. 230.

Mary Talley Anderson, The History of Villa Rica [City of Gold], Villa Rica, Georgia: Villa Rica, Georgia Bicentennial Committee, 1976, reprint: Carrollton, Georgia: Carroll County Genealogical Society, 2000), 96.

[4] First Presbyterian Church History, supplied to Historic Preservation Committee, May 2005, copied from book probably produced by the Church, Sanborn Maps: Villa Rica, sheet 4.

[5] Mary Talley Anderson, The History of Villa Rica [City of Gold], Villa Rica, Georgia: Villa Rica, Georgia Bicentennial Committee, 1976, reprint: Carrollton, Georgia: Carroll County Genealogical Society, 2000), 96.

[6] Carroll County Deed Book Y, p. 230.

[7] Villa Rica Sanborn Map, 1923, 1933

[8] Carroll County Deed book 36, p. 212

[9] First Presbyterian Church History, supplied to Historic Preservation Committee, May 2005, copied from book probably produced by the Church.

First Presbyterian Church  of Villa Rica, PCA: A Brief History of Our Church,”  http://www.firstpcavillarica.org/history.htm (accessed 21 July 2005)

Mary Talley Anderson, The History of Villa Rica [City of Gold], Villa Rica, Georgia: Villa Rica, Georgia Bicentennial Committee, 1976, reprint: Carrollton, Georgia: Carroll County Genealogical Society, 2000), 97.

[10] Mary Talley Anderson, The History of Villa Rica [City of Gold], Villa Rica, Georgia: Villa Rica, Georgia Bicentennial Committee, 1976, reprint: Carrollton, Georgia: Carroll County Genealogical Society, 2000), 98.

[11] Examination of the structure revealed the original façade under loose bricks as well as other locations that revealed the original material.

Cornerstone on southwest façade corner.

First Presbyterian Church History, supplied to Historic Preservation Committee, May 2005, copied from book probably produced by the Church.

[12] Villa Rica Sanborn Map 1923, Sheet 4.

[13] First Presbyterian Church History, supplied to Historic Preservation Committee, May 2005, copied from book probably produced by the Church.

First Presbyterian Church  of Villa Rica, PCA: A Brief History of Our Church,”  http://www.firstpcavillarica.org/history.htm (accessed 21 July 2005)

[14] First Presbyterian Church  of Villa Rica, PCA: A Brief History of Our Church,”  http://www.firstpcavillarica.org/history.htm (accessed 21 July 2005)

Sanborn Map, Villa Rica, sheet 4.

Carroll County Tax Assessor’s Office, Property V05 0020001   (accessed 11 August 2005)

[15] Ronald Musselwhite, “Wesley Memorial Chapel: Methodist Landmark to Fall,” Atlanta Journal, 15 August 1964, n.p. (Wesley Memorial Chapel Vertical File, Atlanta History Center).

[16] Ronald Musselwhite, “Wesley Memorial Chapel: Methodist Landmark to Fall,” Atlanta Journal, 15 August 1964, n.p. (Wesley Memorial Chapel Vertical File, Atlanta History Center).

[17] First Presbyterian Church History, supplied to Historic Preservation Committee, May 2005, copied from book probably produced by the Church.

“First Presbyterian Church  of Villa Rica, PCA: A Brief History of Our Church,”  http://www.firstpcavillarica.org/history.htm (accessed 21 July 2005)

Ronald Musselwhite, “Wesley Memorial Chapel: Methodist Landmark to Fall,” Atlanta Journal, 15 August 1964, n.p. (Wesley Memorial Chapel Vertical File, Atlanta History Center).

[18] Ronald Musselwhite, “Wesley Memorial Chapel: Methodist Landmark to Fall,” Atlanta Journal, 15 August 1964, n.p. (Wesley Memorial Chapel Vertical File, Atlanta History Center).

[19] Ronald Musselwhite, “Wesley Memorial Chapel: Methodist Landmark to Fall,” Atlanta Journal, 15 August 1964, n.p. (Wesley Memorial Chapel Vertical File, Atlanta History Center).

[20]Allison O. Adams, “A Celebration of the Intellect: At Emory's Sesquicentennial Commencement, literary scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. exhorts graduates to 'invent yourself',” http://www.emory.edu/EMORY_MAGAZINE/summer95/commencement.html (accessed 21 July 2005).

Ronald Musselwhite, “Wesley Memorial Chapel: Methodist Landmark to Fall,” Atlanta Journal, 15 August 1964, n.p. (Wesley Memorial Chapel Vertical File, Atlanta History Center).

[21] “Candler Building, “ http://www.atlantaga.gov/governemnt/ubarndesign_candlerbldg.asps (accessed 21 July 2005).

[22] Mary Talley Anderson, The History of Villa Rica [City of Gold], Villa Rica, Georgia: Villa Rica, Georgia Bicentennial Committee, 1976, reprint: Carrollton, Georgia: Carroll County Genealogical Society, 2000), 135.

[23] “Candler Building, “ http://www.atlantaga.gov/governemnt/ubarndesign_candlerbldg.asps (accessed 21 July 2005).

[24] “Wesley Memorial Church,” http://www.rootsweb.com/~gafulton/wesleymemorialchurch.html (accessed 21 July 2001).

“Candler Building, “ http://www.atlantaga.gov/governemnt/ubarndesign_candlerbldg.asps (accessed 21 July 2005).

[25] Mary Talley Anderson, The History of Villa Rica [City of Gold], Villa Rica, Georgia: Villa Rica, Georgia Bicentennial Committee, 1976, reprint: Carrollton, Georgia: Carroll County Genealogical Society, 2000), 96.

Blevins, Ernest Everett, “First Presbyterian Church: Two Buildings in One,” The Villa Rican, Vol. 73, No. 21 (12 June 2008), 10.

First Presbyterian Church History, supplied to Historic Preservation Committee, May 2005, copied from book probably produced by the Church.

“First Presbyterian Church  of Villa Rica, PCA: A Brief History of Our Church,”  http://www.firstpcavillarica.org/history.htm (accessed 21 July 2005)

Villa Rica Sanborn Map, 1923 and 1933

Carroll County Tax Assessor Records, property number V05 0160001 (11 August 2005).

Carroll County Deed Book Y, p. 230

Mary Talley Anderson, The History of Villa Rica [City of Gold], Villa Rica, Georgia: Villa Rica, Georgia Bicentennial Committee, 1976, reprint: Carrollton, Georgia: Carroll County Genealogical Society, 2000), 96.

Examination of the structure revealed the original façade under loose bricks as well as other locations that revealed the original material.

Cornerstone on southwest façade corner

Ronald Musselwhite, “Wesley Memorial Chapel: Methodist Landmark to Fall,” Atlanta Journal, 15 August 1964, n.p. (Wesley Memorial Chapel Vertical File, Atlanta History Center).

Allison O. Adams, “A Celebration of the Intellect: At Emory's Sesquicentennial Commencement, literary scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. exhorts graduates to 'invent yourself',” http://www.emory.edu/EMORY_MAGAZINE/summer95/commencement.html (accessed 21 July 2005).

“Candler Building, “ http://www.atlantaga.gov/governemnt/ubarndesign_candlerbldg.asps (accessed 21 July 2005).