The church was organized by Orange Presbytery on September 25, 1816 and is located on Lot 98, the site of a Church of England structure that was destroyed by fire before the end of the 18th century. The present structure was built in 1814 as a house of worship and became the property of the Presbyterians after the State made the land and building available to the first religious body in town to call a minister. John Knox Witherspoon, grandson of Dr. John Witherspoon, the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence, became the first minister to accept a call and hence the property passed to the Presbyterians. John Knox Witherspoon served as pastor until 1833. At his death in 1853, he was buried in the cemetery adjacent to the church he served as pastor for seventeen years.
Lot #98 is a historic site. It was not only the location of the pre-Revolutionary church of England Sanctuary, but also the site of the Third Provincial Congress of 1775, and the meeting place of the NC Legislature in 1778, 1782 and 1783. The first NC Constitutional Convention was held on this site in 1788, and refused to ratify the Constitution which had been drafted in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787. During the bicentennial celebration of the writing and ratification of the Constitution of the US, an historical marker was placed on the south lawn calling attention to that convention.
During the early years of the life of this church a number of private schools were associated with it, such as John Knox Witherspoon's School for Boys, Miss Mary Burke's School, Hillsborough Academy (Bingham School), Caldwell Institute, and the Nash and Kollock School. Deserving special mention is the Burwell School for Girls which operated during the period of Dr. Robert Armistead Burwell's pastorate (1836-1848 and 1851-1857). The Burwell family made a distinctive contribution to the cause of female education in NC through the Burwell School in Hillsborough, Queens College in Charlotte and Peace College in Raleigh. Burwell School may be visited to this day and is located two blocks north of the church.
During the pastorate of The Reverend William Franklin Wilhelm (1884-1893), major renovations of the Sanctuary were undertaken. The hipped roof was modified to an A-roof, arched windows were installed, a tower was added, the front porch was enclosed, the balcony was reduced in size and stucco was applied to the exterior brick walls. Upon his death, Mr. Wilhelm was buried a few feet from the front door of the church.
It was not until after the close of World War II that the Education Wing was added, a project that began under the leadership of The Reverend Dr. Samuel Wilds DuBose, Jr. (1938-1947), and was completed during the pastorate of the Reverend Irving Earl Birdseye, (1947-1953). With the addition of the Education Wing, the chancel was added.
The pastorate of the Reverend Charles Homer Reckard (1953-1960) was marked by the addition of Strudwick Hall, named in honor of long-time Ruling Elder Shepperd Strudwick, and was completed in 1957. The cross that hangs in the Sanctuary was carved by Mr. Strudwick toward the end of his life.
On July 6, 1987 the Education Building was gutted by fire. The facilities were renovated and redesigned at that time. A pipe organ was installed as part of this renovation work. This work was completed during the pastorate of the Reverend Richard E. Hildebrandt.
The Reverend Debbie Taylor was pastor from January 1993 to August 2001. Dr. Robert Brizendine was the pastor from January, 2003 to June, 2017.
Sunday School - for all ages!
Hillsborough Presbyterian Church
102 West Tryon Street
Post Office Box 717
Hillsborough, NC 27278