Presbytery of the Peaks Presbyterian Church, USA College Church
Thursday, December 12, 2019
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   The College (Presbyterian) Church at Hampden-Sydney
College Church
College Church, Hampden-Sydney, VA

This is the third building to be used by the Presbyterian congregation at Hampden-Sydney. It was designed by the famous 19th century conservative theologian, Robert Lewis Dabney, whose hobby was dabbling in architecture. The structure itself was built of hand-made brick, molded and baked on the site, and the entire building was constructed in the space of the three summer months of 1860. There had been an earlier, box-like wooden church building in the vicinity of Hampden House, near the north gateway onto the campus, and this had served the congregation from the late 1770's until 1820. In that year the congregation purchased four acres of land at the present church site, and a small brick building was constructed "with ugly tudor arches," as an early chronicle editorially stated. That structure was located between the present building and Atkinson Avenue, and it faced south toward the cemetery.

Architect Dabney had earlier used this same design at the Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church near Waynesboro, Virginia, and also at the Farmville Presbyterian Church, except in those cases there was a center entrance, while at College Church there were two entrances, one for women and one for men. The stairways on either side of the porch led to the slave galleries. With the original pews the seating capacity was 400 downstairs, 200 upstairs. Until recent years this space was sufficient for seating the entire student body, and for over a century, most of the all-college events were traditionally held here. These included daily chapel, seasonal convocations and graduations. Dr.. Dabney also designed for his family use, a nearby Italiante-style residence, and he was the architectural consultant for the American Gothic design of Briery Presbyterian Church near Keysville. However, he was probably adapting that exquisite design, as well as his own sophisticated Westmerton residence, from 19th Century pattern-books.


"From his fullness we have received,
grace upon grace."
John 1:16

College Church, College Road, Box 13, Hampden-Sydney Virginia 23943
Phone: (434) 223-6269 or (434) 223-8625 * FAX: (434) 223-7055