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Cornerstone of Park Street Church laid #onthisday in 1809

May 1, 2017

On May 1, 1809, construction began on Park Street Church. Five years earlier, in 1804, a small group of Bostonians began to meet for weekly lectures and prayer.

Park Street Church, circa 1970s

This group, called the “Religious Improvement Society,” organized the charter of Park Street Church in February of 1809 and three months later, on May 1, they laid the church’s cornerstone.

Since its founding, Park Street Church has been an active participant in Boston’s religious and cultural life. Early in the church’s life, Bostonians referred to the church as “brimstone corner,” either because of "fire and brimstone" preaching at the church, or because gunpowder was stored in the church’s basement during the War of 1812.

Park Street Church became known for far more than fire and brimstone however. Various cultural organizations and political movements found their beginnings at the Church, including the Handel and Hayden Society in 1815, the American Temperance Society in 1826, and the Animal Rescue League in 1889.   Prior to the Civil War, Bostonians came to know the church as a center of abolitionist activity. Edward Beecher, brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe and a strong abolitionist, became the church’s pastor in 1826, and three years later, on July 4, 1829, William Lloyd Garrison used the church to make his first public statement against slavery.  The American Peace Society frequently met at Park Street Church throughout the 19th century, and in 1849,  Charles Sumner gave a famous address entitled "The War System of Nations."

In the 20th century, Park Street Church played key roles in the founding of  the Boston branch of the NAACP,  War Relief (now World Relief), Gordon-Conwell Seminary, Fuller Theological Seminaries, and the religious publication Christianity Today.  Today, Park Street Church is both an active religious congregation and a historic site on Boston's Freedom Trail

To learn more about the history of Park Street, Church, you can access their archival records at the Congregational Library. There's a catalog of Park Street Church's records. You can also view a historical timeline of their congregation's history.