Our History

Learn about the rich history of our church in Tacoma. It reaches back to the 1870s and continues today.

FPC Tacoma 1883

History of First Presbyterian Church of Tacoma

First Presbyterian Church Tacoma was initially established in July 1873 to meet the needs of settlers who came to this region because it was the western terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Just a couple of months later, the great financial crash of September 1873 occurred, scattering most of the founding members. The church essentially had to be restarted in 1877 under the leadership of the Rev. John Thompson. Since then, First Presbyterian Church has played an uninterrupted role in the history of Tacoma and the Pacific Northwest.

The church outgrew its first building and had to construct another one in 1890. In the interim between selling its old building and completing the new one, the congregation met for a year in a tent! During World War I, the church had to close its doors for five weeks in October and November of 1917 because of an epidemic that was sweeping the country.   The church built its third and current building in 1925. A masterpiece of Romanesque architecture, it was designed by famous church architect Ralph Adams Cram and is rich in Christian symbolism expressed in stone, wood, glass, and mosaic. (Explore more about the current building’s art and architecture on the “Our Building” page.)

Many of the church’s current ministries and activities have roots in the past. In 1946, the church acquired Camp McCullough. Today this 40-acre lakefront conference center near Kent, Washington, has developed into an important center for Christian training, retreats, and summer camps. Many young people continue to grow in faith and leadership ability as they work there as counselors and staff members. During the initial decades after World War II, First Presbyterian Church made a significant commitment to world evangelization, holding annual missions conferences with speakers from around the world. That commitment continues today, and the church currently supports two dozen missionaries in various parts of the world.

In 1969, a Christian preschool was started at the church. First Presbyterian Church Preschool and The Cor Deo School now enroll nearly 300 children in preschool through grade eight with a focus on a “Christian, classical” approach to education.

In 2007, First Presbyterian Church started a new chapter in its history by calling Dr. Eric Jacobsen as its Senior Pastor. A winsome and gifted expositor of the Bible, Eric Jacobsen is a nationally-recognized speaker and author whose sermons are now made available to listeners here on the First Presbyterian Church website. Since coming to First Presbyterian Church, Eric Jacobsen served for a time as a periodic columnist for the Tacoma News Tribune and has been active in the Stadium District Business Association.

In 2012, the congregation voted to leave the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) and to affiliate with the new denomination ECO (A Covenant Order of Evangelicals Presbyterians). First Presbyterian Church became the first church accepted into this new denomination.

The firm foundation of First Presbyterian Church Tacoma is, and always has been, our Lord Jesus Christ, “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Everything we do comes from our relationship with God, and it brings us great joy to add new people to His family. We are building on the prayers of those who have gone before us, and we pray that we might be about changing lives for the sake of Jesus Christ until his return.

FPC Tacoma 1890

FPC Tacoma 1937


Explore historical documents and photos from our church archives, including a detailed history of the church from 1873-1979.