The FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF EAST CLEVELAND, founded 27 August 1807 as the Church of Christ in Euclid, was one of the first churches in the WESTERN RESERVE. Also known as Historic Presbyterian Church, it has occupied the same plot of land for its entire history, at 16200 EUCLID AVE. The church organized with about 12 members in the home of Andrew McIlrath. The Plan of Union Sunday school, with missionary Rev. William Wick in charge, affiliated with the Hartford, CT, Presbytery on 15 March 1810. Members first met in homes and barns, then in a log structure on land later purchased from the McIlraths, in what was then EUCLID TWP. This was replaced in 1816 with a white frame meetinghouse. Rev. Thomas Barr served as the first minister (1810-20). In 1828, under Rev. Stephen Peet (1826-33), the First Presbyterian Society of Euclid officially organized (also called First Presbyterian Church of Euclid). On 4 July 1852, in a dispute over slavery, members who wanted to deny communion to "man-dealers" left this church to form the Free Congregational Church.
First Presbyterian Church of East Cleveland laid the cornerstone for a new building on 27 August 1893, dedicated the Sunday school on 4 February 1894, and the sanctuary on 3 November 1895. In 1896 the name changed to First Presbyterian Church of East Cleveland (no relationship to the congregation of the same name which met at DOAN'S CORNERS and later became EUCLID AVE. CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH.) From the early 20th century until 1983, the name was First United Presbyterian Church, reflecting denominational schisms (see PRESBYTERIANS). Pastors included William H. Beecher (stated supply preacher, 1843-49, brother of Henry Ward Beecher) and M. Howard Wells (1926-62). The church spawned the Windermere Presbyterian Chapel (later Windermere Presbyterian Church), "Old First" Noble Hts. Bible Chapel (1921, later Noble Rd. Presbyterian Church) in CLEVELAND HTS., and Christ Presbyterian Church of Chesterland (1957). The church constructed a wing in 1962 for its burgeoning Sunday school, which peaked in the 1960s at over 650; church membership then stood at about 1,600.
First Church lost members from about 1965-80, with "white flight" from East Cleveland. Although experiencing a series of short pastorates, the church continued social activism, sponsoring a daycare, housing the community newspaper, the East Cleveland Citizen, and supporting interracial efforts such as the East Cleveland Community Theater (later the EAST CLEVELAND THEATER). Under Rev. Dr. Carroll C. Meyer (head of staff, 1981-94) and Rev. David B. Bowie (assoc. pastor, 1983-87), the revitalized congregation purposefully and successfully integrated AFRICAN AMERICANS into its membership, boards, and staff. In 1995 the church, a Headstart site, offered free meals programs and a weekly program for neighborhood youth. Membership stood at about 300. First Presbyterian Church of East Cleveland closed in 2010, and its building is now used by New Life Cathedral.