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WITHIN the past fifteen years much attention has been paid to church architecture, and the ecclesiastical edifices of this period will compare favorably with those of any American city. The Washington Directory gives the names of one hundred and eighty-three churches within the city limits.
A little outside of these limits is one of the oldest churches in the country—the pretty St. Paul's of Rock Creek Parish, on the borders of Georgetown. The early settlers of the district were of the Church of England, and had not been long established here when, under the leadership of one of their numberJohn Bradford,—they began the erection of this church. It was dedicated in 1719-forty-six years before the more famous Christ Church of Alexandria, and twenty-seven before the venerable St. Paul's of Norfolk. It is to be regretted that in the remodelling some years ago its ancient form was made to conform to modern requirements. Its old cemetery entombs many of the earlier inhabitants of Georgetown.
Another of these ancient and satisfactory church edifices, of which so many are scattered throughout
Maryland and Virginia, is Christ Episcopal Church, in the opposite quarter of Washington, near the Navy Yard. This church was erected in 1795, three
years after the city had been laid out, and is the oldest church edifice within the corporate limits. For many years its handful of members had a hard struggle to maintain their organization, but at last secured a firm and permanent foothold. In 1807, aided by citizens of the neighborhood, the church laid out, on the banks of the Eastern Branch, the “Washington Parish Burial Ground," which, a few years later, was selected by Congress for the interment of such of its members as should die in the city during their term of service, and hence was called the Congressional Cemetery.
The second Episcopal Church in the city was erected in 1816, in the north quarter, from designs by Benjamin H. Latrobe, one of the architects of the Capitol,—the present St. John's Church, on the corner of H and Sixteenth Streets, for many years the finest church edifice of the city. This church has been attended by many of the Presidents. President Madison worshipped there, and President Arthur, during his term, was a regular attendant. The third in order of erection was Trinity, on the corner of Third and C Streets. The other leading churches of this denomination are the Church of the Epiphany, on G Street Northwest, and the beautiful Church of the Ascension, on Massachusetts Avenue and Twelfth Street. There are twenty-five Episcopal churches in the city, twenty-two white and three colored.
The oldest Presbyterian church is the First Church on Four-and-One-Half Street, now attended by President Cleveland. The society was organized in 1795, and at first held its meetings in a temporary building on the White House grounds, called the Hall. On the erection of the Capitol the society obtained leave to hold its meetings in the Supreme Court chamber, and later in the hall of the House. After the burning of the Capitol in 1814, the society continued without a place of worship for two years, but then built a small chapel south of the Capitol. This
chapel remained in use until 1828, when the present site was secured and a church erected upon it, which gave place in 1859 to the present edifice. Presidents Jackson, Polk, and Pierce have been attendants at its services. Another important church of this denomination is the New York Avenue, formerly known as the Second Presbyterian, in which President Jackson worshipped during his first term, and which was attended by Presidents Buchanan and Lincoln. There are fifteen Presbyterian churches in the city.
The Catholic Church has always been influential in Washington, both from having been early established here, and because many of the Diplomatic Corps have been members of its communion. Of its churches, St. Patrick's, on G Street Northwest,
- dedicated in 1884--stands on the site of the pioneer church, which was built in 1804. Other prominent Catholic churches are St. Matthew's St. Dominic's, and St. Aloysius'. St. Augustine's, on Fifteenth Street Northwest, is the largest colored church in Washington. There are fourteen churches of this communion in the city.
In numbers the Methodists and the Baptists lead. The oldest Methodist society in the city is the Dumbarton Avenue, which was organized in 1795. The Metropolitan, on the corner of Four-and-OneHalf and C Streets, is the national church of the Methodists, and was attended by Presidents Grant and Hayes during their terms of office. The Methodists have sixty-two churches.
The first Baptist church was erected in 1803 on Thirteenth Street, between G and H. The denomination now numbers forty-six churches. There are six Congregational churches, ten Lutheran, one Unitarian - All Souls', - one Universalist, two