Studying history allows for the ability to answer questions debated today. Since visiting each of the United States Capitol buildings and the churches located closest to them in 2013, I have researched the established dates of each institution. My results show a clear pattern of development of church and state in each location. Feel free to use these findings in your next debate on the connection between church and state in the USA.
My research was conducted between March 8th and June 8th, 2013 with personal visits to each of the 51 Capitols starting with Washington, D.C. and finishing with Carson City, Nevada. This allowed me to determine the physical or geographical connection between the closest church buildings to each Capitol building. I then googled my way through multiple sources to find the established dates of each building. Finally, I continued my discovery by researching and writing articles about each Capitol and church history I encountered. How many Capitols were established first? How many churches were established first? In the 51 capitals, 14 Capitol buildings were established first and 37 churches were established first.
Here are my state by state details in alphabetical order.
Alabama-Montgomery... The Capitol was established in 1850,the Dexter Ave Baptist Church in 1877.
Alaska-Juneau…St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church was established in 1894, the Capitol in 1929.
Arizona-Phoenix… The Capitol was established in 1899, St. Matthew Church (RC) in 1925.
Arkansas-Little Rock… First Missionary Baptist Church was established in 1882, the Capitol between 1899 and 1911. Shortly after my visit in March of 2013 The Ecumenical Buddhist Society of Little Rock www.ebsir.org moved to 1516 W.3rd street thereby becoming the closest "church" to the Arkansas State Capitol.
California-Sacramento...The Capital was established in 1860, Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament was established in 1887.
Colorado-Denver… First Baptist Church was established in 1864. The Capitol in 1886.
Connecticut-Hartford… The Capitol was established in 1872, Second Christ Scientist church was established in 1891. The building was sold to state after I visited in 2013. The Closest church to the State Capitol is now First Presbyterian Church. Formed in 1851, they moved to their current location 136 Capitol Ave. in 1870.
Delaware-Dover...Wesley United Methodist Church was established in 1784, the Capitol in 1792 and 1933.
District of Columbia… The United States Capitol was established in 1793, The Lutheran church of the Reformation has an unknown established date.
Florida-Tallahassee… St. John’s Episcopal was established in 1829, the Capital in 1845, and First Baptist church in 1849.
Georgia-Atlanta...Central Presbyterian Church established in 1868 and The Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception established in 1848. The Capitol was established in 1883.
Hawaii-Honolulu...Cathedral church of St. Andrew(Episcopal) was established in 1867, Kawaiahao church in 1842, and the Capitol in 1960.
Idaho-Boise...St. Michael’s Episcopal Cathedral was established in 1900, The Capitol in 1905.
Illinois-Springfield... First church of Christ, Scientist was established in 1840, the Capital was established in 1884.
Indiana-Indianapolis… St. John the Evangelist Catholic church was established in 1871, The Capitol in 1877.
Iowa-Des Moines... The Capitol was established in 1873, Elim Christian Fellowship church in 2001.
Louisiana-Baton Rouge...St. Joseph’s Cathedral(Roman Catholic) was established in 1853. The current Capitol was established in 1930.
Kansas-Topeka...First Presbyterian Church was established in 1859. The Capital in 1868-1908.
Kentucky-Frankfort...South Frankfort Presbyterian church was established in 1880-1904.The Capitol was established from 1905-1910. The closest church, St. Peter’s Anglican was established in 2012.
Maine-Augusta...The Capitol was established in 1828. St. Mary’s Catholic Church in 1926.
Maryland-Annapolis...St. Anne’s Episcopal church was established in 1704 and rebuilt in 1858. The Capitol was established in 1772 and briefly served as U.S. Capital.
Massachusetts-Boston…The Old North Church(Christ Church in Boston) was established in 1722.The Capitol was established in 1795. The closest church is Church on the Hill, established in 1818 and Fenway Park (considered a modern day church of baseball) was established in 1912.
Michigan-Lansing...St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was established in 1848. The Capitol from 1871-1878.
Minnesota-St. Paul...Christ Lutheran was established in 1868. The Capitol from 1893 to 1905.
Mississippi-Jackson...First Baptist Jackson was established in 1844. The Capitol in 1901.
Missouri-Jefferson City… St. Peter Church (Roman Catholic) was established from 1821 to 1881. The Capitol was established from 1911-1917.
Montana-Helena...First Presbyterian Church was established in 1873. The Capitol in 1896.
Nebraska-Lincoln...The Capitol was established from 1919 to 1932.First Christian Church was established in 1927.
Nevada-Carson City...First Presbyterian Church was established in 1864. The Capitol in 1869.
New Hampshire-Concord...The Capitol was established in 1815.St. Paul’s Episcopal church in 1839.
New Jersey-Trenton...The Capitol was established in 1792. St. Mary’s Cathedral(Roman Catholic) in 1865.
New Mexico- Santa Fe...San Miguel Church (Tlaxcalan Indians) was established in 1610. The new state Capitol was established in 1964.
New York-Albany... St. Peter’s Protestant Episcopal was established from 1712 to 1802. The Capitol was established in 1867.
North Carolina-Raleigh...First Baptist church was established in 1812. The Capitol in 1840.
North Dakota-Bismarck...McCabe Methodist Episcopal church was established in 1880. The Capitol in 1920.The closest church is Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (Quaker Worship) with an unknown established date.
Ohio-Columbus...Trinity Episcopal Church was established from 1817 to 1869.The Capitol in 1837.
Oklahoma-Oklahoma City...The Capitol was established in 1914. The Voice of Praise Baptist Church was originally established as Presbyterian in 1948.
Oregon-Salem...First Presbyterian church was established in 1928. The Capitol in 1935.
Pennsylvania-Harrisburg...Pine Street Presbyterian was established in 1860. Grace Methodist Church (which was briefly used as the Capitol) was established in 1897. The current Capitol was established in 1905.
Rhode Island-Providence...The First Baptist Church in America was established in 1634. The current Capitol was established in 1895. The closest church is Gloria Dei Lutheran Church (Swedish Evangelical) with an unknown established date.
South Carolina-Columbia... Trinity Episcopal Cathedral was established in 1812. The Capitol in 1854.
South Dakota-Pierre...First Congregational UCC was established in 1880. The Capitol was in 1905. The closest church is Lutheran Memorial established in 1942.
Tennessee-Nashville...The Capitol was established from 1845 to 1854 on the former grounds of Holy Rosary Cathedral ( Roman Catholic). The closest current church is St. Mary of the Seven Sorrows established from 1844-1847 with the remnants of Holy Rosary Cathedral.
Texas-Austin... First Methodist Church was established in 1840. The Capitol in 1881.
Utah-Salt Lake City...White Memorial Chapel was established in 1888 and relocated in front of the Capital in 1978. The Capitol was established in 1912. The closest church is The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints (the old Rock Church) established in 1928.
Vermont-Montpelier...The Capitol was established in 1834. The First church of Christ Scientist was established in 1904.
Virginia-Richmond...The Capitol was established in 1785. St. Paul’s Episcopal in 1845.
Washington-Olympia...United Presbyterian/United Church of Christ was established in 1854. The Capitol in 1919.
Wisconsin-Madison...Grace Episcopal church was established in 1855. The Capitol was established between 1906 and 1917
West Virginia-Charleston...The Capitol was established in 1885 and reestablished in 1931. Ruffner Memorial Presbyterian Church was established in 1919 and the building also is home to St. Michael’s Independent Catholic.
Wyoming-Cheyenne...First Presbyterian Church was established in 1869 and relocated near the Capitol in 1925. The Capitol was established in 1886. St. Mary’s Cathedral was established in 1907.
There you have it, the dated establishment of the physical separation of church and state in the United States of America. The next time someone wants to debate which existed first in this country, drop this Capitols and churches knowledge on them. History Rocks!
Isn’t it interesting that the term “The Separation of Church and State” can be traced back to responsive letters written by Roger Williams and Thomas Jefferson or even the prophet Isaiah? Each man was answering the questions of the day with their opinions. The Founder of Rhode Island, Roger Williams responding to Mr. John Cotton in 1644. President Thomas Jefferson responding to the Danbury Baptist Association on Jan 1st 1802. Should you take Roger’s words back to his inspiration from Isaiah 5 in the Old Testament? These men were not prone to short statements. I present each man’s original sentence before the metaphor, the Separation of Church and State became common.
Isaiah 5 verse 1-7
The Song of the Vineyard1 I will sing for the one I love
a song about his vineyard:
My loved one had a vineyard
on a fertile hillside.
2 He dug it up and cleared it of stones
and planted it with the choicest vines.
He built a watchtower in it
and cut out a winepress as well.
Then he looked for a crop of good grapes,
but it yielded only bad fruit.
3 “Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and people of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard.
4 What more could have been done for my vineyard
than I have done for it?
When I looked for good grapes,
why did it yield only bad?
5 Now I will tell you
what I am going to do to my vineyard:
I will take away its hedge,
and it will be destroyed;
I will break down its wall,
and it will be trampled.
6 I will make it a wasteland,
neither pruned nor cultivated,
and briers and thorns will grow there.
I will command the clouds
not to rain on it.”
7 The vineyard of the Lord Almighty
is the nation of Israel,
and the people of Judah
are the vines he delighted in.
And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed;
for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.
Roger Williams: To Mr. Cotton’s Letter Lately Printed, Examined and Answered.
“First, the faithful labor of many witnesses of Jesus Christ, extant to the world, abundantly proving, that the Church of the Jews under the Old Testament in the type, and the Church of Christians under the New Testament in the anti type, were both separate from the world; and that when they have opened a gap in the hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the Church and the wilderness of the world, God hath ever broke down the wall itself, removed the candlestick, etc., and made his garden a wilderness, as at this day.” A 96 word sentence, now squeezed into a 6 word metaphor.
President Thomas Jefferson’s Reply: Messrs. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, and Stephen s. Nelson.A Committee of the Danbury Baptist Association, in the State of Connecticut.
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that the act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature would “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.” An 83 word sentence, now squeezed into a 6 word metaphor.
Do you think that we may have lost the original concepts of these men along the way? Personally, researching the metaphor made my head hurt. So I looked for something simple to explore. THE HEDGE. It was then that the symbolism hit me square in the eyes. The grounds around the Rhode Island Statehouse in Providence, Rhode Island has distinctive hedges and walls separating the building from the gardens and wilderness around it. The First Baptist Church in America that Roger Williams founded in 1638 has a hedge around one side separating the church from the street.
Was this created on purpose to reflect Roger Williams vision? I lived in Rhode Island from age 6 to 46. Class trips to the statehouse. Driven by and walked the grounds numerous times. Not a clue as to the potential significance. But right there and then, I knew that I had a theme for a 50 State Capitol trip.
Research on the building of this Capitol or the First Baptist Church in America does not indicate any intent behind the wall and hedge. Symbols do not need human intent to have meaning. Organic symbols can speak louder. As I explored this space and connected the dots of history associated with Providence, Rhode Island, the symbols became a bullhorn to my ears. The rabbit hole of my curiosity gets deeper with each peek I take.
For this trip, coming in from Boston, Massachusetts I had the distinct privilege's of 4 guests to join me on a Capitol stroll to where the church bells toll. Lorelei Flanagan, Mike Silvia, Karen and Diane Morra joined for a walk around the statehouse, to the closest church, Roger Williams National Memorial park, and The First Baptist Church in America.
Gloria Dei Lutheran Church was the physically closest, tucked between Providence Place Mall, Moran shipping, and Renaissance Hotel. The walk up Francis street on the west side was along the hedge and wall separating the Capitol from the street. Around to the front of the Capitol on Smith street and down the hill crossing the river to The Roger Williams National Memorial Park. then down N. Main street to the First Baptist Church.
With that I finished the journey to all 51 US Capitols and their closest churches. Separations and connections litter the landscape. The journey was fascinating and a deep dive into subjects that I had never contemplated. Understanding will never be complete, and that is okay. In fact, it is likely the conclusion that Roger Williams himself came to. A lifelong pursuit of life truths is just that, a lifelong pursuit that doesn't need a perfect ending. Some day we will understand.