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Presbyterians in Charleston


Eastern Illinois University

Charleston, Illinois


Coles County



Additional Resources

Presbyterians in Charleston’s Landscape

On the corner of 7th street and Madison, nestled in the heart of Charleston, Illinois is the First Presbyterian Church.  With the Church’s history spanning back to the town’s genesis, the structure, as well as previous structures, shows an evolution over time of a dynamic religious landscape. The structure is reflective of the community’s relationship with religion, and the influence that was shared between them. The current structure is crafted in a Georgian Revival style, and prominently features the Akron plan as its layout.

The Akron plan is evidence of an era where church and education weren’t as separated as they are today. The Akron plan was popular among evangelical denominations, and featured classical elements much like the First Presbyterian Church in Charleston. The floor is slanted like an ancient theater, and classrooms connect to the sanctuary. The structure has retained its original layout, as well as many defining features of the Akron plan.

Though much of Charleston’s religious landscape has yet to be uncovered, the Presbyterians offer a glimpse at the compelling forces, be it spiritual or otherwise, that molded Charleston’s demographics, landscape, and history. The church has been an anchor in the landscape that has drastically transformed around it.


Georgian Revival Features-

georgian features 



The map above shows two layers of Charleston's religious landscape. The red pins are churches that existed in the past and no longer exist. The crosses represent current churches that still stand today. The population can be compared to the growth of churches in Charleston. A big influx of new churches occurred in the early 20th century due to a renewed vigor in religion, and a revival due to evangelical preachers such a Billy Sunday, who visited Charleston.


The religious landscape still has many opportunities to be studied further.


Bateman, Newton, Paul Selby, William F Kenaga, and George R Letourneau. Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois. Chicago: Middle-West Publ. Co., 1906.

“Charleston This Is Our Story Part 6 - YouTube.” Accessed March 19, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IU9uMj163ic.

“Charleston, 1886 Mar. :: Sanborn Maps of Illinois, 1867-1970 (CARLI).” Accessed April 17, 2016. http://collections.carli.illinois.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/sanborn/id/44785/rec/6.

“Charleston, 1892 Jan. :: Sanborn Maps of Illinois, 1867-1970 (CARLI).” Accessed April 17, 2016. http://collections.carli.illinois.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/sanborn/id/44784/rec/5.

“Charleston, 1896 Aug. :: Sanborn Maps of Illinois, 1867-1970 (CARLI).” Accessed April 17, 2016. http://collections.carli.illinois.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/sanborn/id/44787/rec/8.

“Charleston, 1902 Mar. :: Sanborn Maps of Illinois, 1867-1970 (CARLI).” Accessed April 17, 2016. http://collections.carli.illinois.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/sanborn/id/44782/rec/3.

“Charleston, 1910 Feb. :: Sanborn Maps of Illinois, 1867-1970 (CARLI).” Accessed April 17, 2016. http://collections.carli.illinois.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/sanborn/id/44781/rec/2.

“Charleston, 1919 July :: Sanborn Maps of Illinois, 1867-1970 (CARLI).” Accessed April 17, 2016. http://collections.carli.illinois.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/sanborn/id/44780/rec/1.

“Charleston, 1929 Jan. :: Sanborn Maps of Illinois, 1867-1970 (CARLI).” Accessed April 17, 2016. http://collections.carli.illinois.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/sanborn/id/44786/rec/7.

“Charter of the St. Louis, Alton & Terre Haute R...” Accessed March 19, 2016.

History of Coles County, 1876-1976 : Coles County, Illinois. [Place of publication not identified] : Charleston and Mattoon Bicentennial Commission, 1976.

Hutchason, Lois V. [Records] First Presbyterian Church of Charleston, Illinois - 1864-1964, 1833.

Kilde, Jeanne Halgren. When Church Became Theatre : The Transformation of Evangelical Architecture and Worship in Nineteenth-Century America. New York : Oxford University Press, 2002.

Perrin, William Henry, A. A. (Albert Adams) Graham, and D. M. Blair. The History of Coles County, Illinois ... Map of Coles County; History of Illinois ... History of Northwest ... Constitution of the United States, Miscellaneous Matters, &c., &c. Chicago: W. Le Baron, 1879. http://archive.org/details/historyofcolesco00perr.

weiutv. Charleston: This Is Our Story, Part 4. Accessed March 24, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=Rb-uqFlYROY.

Wilson, Charles Edward. History of Coles County, Illinois. [Place of publication not identified], 1905.

This webpage was created by Kyle Dickson, Historical Administration Graduate Student, Class of 2015-2016