The fact Peachtree Presbyterian Church is actually on Roswell Road rarely gives me pause.
The name “Peachtree” is attached to so many roads and places, it would be stranger had the historic church bore the moniker Roswell Presbyterian Church even though it is not in Roswell. Still, it has crossed my mind.
One day last month admiring some historical photos of Buckhead in an office, I saw an image I hadn’t seen before, specifically the corner of Peachtree Road and Mathieson Drive from the 1950s. There sat a handsome brick church with two spires, transepts and a gravel walkway leading to Peachtree Road. It was the original Peachtree Presbyterian Church, then called Peachtree Road Presbyterian Church.
Its roots go back to 1910, when a Buckhead couple decided to honor the memory of their recently deceased 3-month-old son by offering Sunday school classes in a vacant Buckhead store. Mr. and Mrs. C.S. Honour — no first names were given in the church histories — received the blessing of the two prominent Atlanta Presbyterian churches at the time, First Presbyterian Church and North Avenue Presbyterian Church, both in Midtown. On Sept. 25, 1910, the first Presbyterian Sunday school was taught in Buckhead.
It did not take the shape of an actual church until 1919, when the Rev. F.D. Stevenson — again, no first names, only initials — was called to serve a membership of just 75 people. M.L. Thrower donated the land on the corner of Peachtree Road and Mathieson Drive that same year. The sanctuary was built in stages and completed in 1926.
During the Great Depression, the church property was sold in foreclosure on the steps of the Fulton County courthouse. The members continued to gather there but a group out of New Orleans that specifically bought foreclosed church deeds during the Depression held the title. The year was 1936. One year later, the members raised enough money to buy it back.
In 1950, the church experienced its first growing pains, a recurring theme for what would become the largest Presbyterian church in the country. Citing the fact that the primary classroom had been built to accommodate 30 children and now had 100, a new education building was constructed in 1950. It was connected to the church by a covered walkway. The stone-facade building facing Mathieson still stands between the Wendy’s restaurant and the Mathieson Exchange Lofts.
In 1957 with membership exceeding 1,600 and drawing 1,000 most Sundays, the church made the decision to relocate to 3434 Roswell Road on 10 acres on what was formerly the Grant estate. The same estate became Cherokee Town Club on West Paces Ferry Road. The church purchased the land for a little more than $140,000 and completed the move in 1960.
The original church was demolished and its property sliced and diced in a way only Buckhead could. It is now a fast food restaurant, a telephone company and an office building.
If you are ever behind that Wendy’s, you can see the old 1950s education building, which was clearly built by a church. A blue granite wall that slightly juts out into nothing on its southern face is the only remaining physical link to the original Peachtree Road Presbyterian Church.
Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is a sixth-generation Atlantan and a former news editor of this paper. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.