Kentucky’s Oldest Presbyterian Church

Walnut Hill Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Ky. Jason Sloan

For the next edition of #BGTdeTours, you have the opportunity to explore the oldest Presbyterian church in Kentucky. The site is the Walnut Hill Presbyterian Church which is located on Walnut Hill Pike near Old Richmond Road.

The church was formed on land given it by General Levi Todd, Mary Todd Lincoln’s grandfather, in 1785. That year, a log structure was erected for the pioneers. One of the first ministers, Rev. James Crawford, is buried in the church cemetery. In 1791, Crawford created a school of Latin, Greek and the Sciences at Walnut Hill. Crawford is among the 85 individuals interred at the church cemetery.

Amidst the 1801 “great revival” that overtook Kentucky in religious fervor, the church at Walnut Hill was demolished and the extant stone structure replaced it. Originally and until an 1880 remodeling, the stone sanctuary had “eight square windows on two levels that allowed light to enter the sanctuary at the ground level as well as in the galleries that surrounded the inner room on three sides.”

Windows at Walnut Hill. Jason Sloan

Since 1880, however, eight large Gothic windows have provided light into the holy space. But the church has not been in continuous operation since the church first opened. According to the structure’s application to the National Register of Historic Places, the Walnut Hill Presbyterian Church was ‘unoccupied’ in 1973. In fact, after 168 years of use the structure was abandoned in 1953.

Floorplan of Walnut Hill. National Register.

In June 1974, the church doors were reopened and the sanctuary rededicated in 1975. In 1977, a silver communion set and baptismal bowl that were gifted to the church in 1851 were returned from a North Carolina museum that had housed the artifacts since the 1940s.

In 1985, an education and social wing was added to the Walnut Hill Church which is now an ecumenical facility with ties to both the Presbyterian and Episcopal denominations.

The award-winning #BGTdeTours program is designed to provide tours of places you might not normally get to see, helping people interact with and learn about sites that make the Bluegrass special. For young professionals (and the young at heart!), deTours are “always” the first Wednesday of the month at 5:30 pm, and are always free and open to the public.

BGT deTour
Walnut Hill Church
September 2, 2015
Gather at 5:30 p.m.,
program begins at 6:00 p.m.

575 Walnut Hill Rd., Lexington

Free and open to the public. An AfterHour at Jean Farris Winery follows.


Walnut Hill, ca. 1972. National Register Application (H. Lynn Cravens).

Local History Index
National Register of Historic Places Application (1973)