The Old Pine Story

One of Old Pine’s first pastors, George Duffield established our lively personality soon after our founding in 1768 as the Third Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Defying British arrest, Duffield served as chaplain to the First Continental Congress in 1774 and, with many of his parishioners, joined Washington at Valley Forge in the winter of 1776-77.

Because of George Duffield’s activities and those of parishioners such as John Adams, and of the many members who loyally stood with Washington, Old Pine soon became known as the “Church of the Patriots.” Today, it remains the only Presbyterian structure in Philadelphia dating back to colonial and revolutionary times.


During that bitter winter of occupation, the British used Old Pine first as a hospital and later as a stable for their horses. They stripped the sanctuary of its plate and pews — anything that could be sold or burned.

By the time the first Presbyterian General Assembly met in Philadelphia in 1789, Old Pine had become a leader in shaping both the church and the new nation, and its leadership has continued through the centuries. George Duffield was the first stated clerk of the General Assembly; Archibald Alexander left the pastorate of Old Pine to become the first professor of theology at Princeton Theological Seminary; Pastor Ezra Stiles Ely provided the land for Jefferson Medical College; six of Old Pine’s pastors served as Moderators of the Presbyterian General Assembly; Pastor Thomas Brainerd led the crusade against slavery and joined in the founding of the Union League to support those fighting the Civil War.


Over the years, two congregations merged into Old Pine so that today, the official name of the church is The Third, Scots and Mariners Presbyterian Church.

By 1900, Old Pine and the neighborhood had begun to decline; by mid-century both church and churchyard stood in melancholy disrepair. Old Pine’s neighborhood declined as well. Many of the residences deteriorated. Many churches moved away, but Old Pine remained to serve its community through vocational training for immigrants and services conducted in the Polish language. However, had it not been for its unique role in Presbyterian and national history, the old church would probably have been closed and demolished.


In 1951, Dr. Alexander Mackie formed the Friends of Old Pine, a support organization dedicated to restore Old Pine to its place as an active, self-supporting urban ministry. The group financed the first 20th century major renovation and restoration which included adding a kitchen and restrooms to the first floor. When William Pindar took the pulpit in 1971, the congregation began to grow and reclaim its role in the life of the church and the community.

During Bill Pindar’s eighteen-year tenure, the people of Old Pine completely remodeled the church making the ground floor wheelchair accessible, and installing an elevator to connect the ground floor to the magnificently redecorated sanctuary.


In 1976, Old Piners built the Old Pine Community Center at Fourth and Lombard Streets thereby providing the community and the church with much-needed meeting, study and recreational space.


The Friends of Old Pine supported renovations to Old Pine’s churchyard — the resting place of thousands of parishioners, many significantly involved in the life of the church, the city and the nation. In the early 1980’s, we added a memorial garden for the remains of those wishing to be buried in these historic grounds.


When the Presbyterian General Assembly celebrated its bicentennial in 1989, Old Pine played a major role in the planning and execution of all celebratory events. In 2006, Old Pine hosted the 300th Anniversary of the Presbyterian Church in the United States.


We, the people of Old Pine, are concerned with much more than bricks and mortar. Continuing our more than 200 years of community activism, we were among the first to respond to the problem of the homeless on the streets of our city. In 1982, we founded and, in the beginning, sheltered the Philadelphia Committee for the Homeless. In 1978, Old Pine started its Saturday for Seniors (SFS) program to provide a weekend hot lunch and take-home snack for the city’s elderly — a Philadelphia first. With no charge and no means test, SFS has become a vital weekend home for more than 100 older people from all over the city. Old Pine continues its commitment to serve the poor in the 21st century. We participate in a local Habitat for Humanity project in the Point Breeze neighborhood of Philadelphia, joining with other Presbyterian congregations to jump start development there and in surrounding blocks. In addition, we send members to the Gulf Coast to help the clean-up and rebuilding effort in the wake of the disastrous Hurricane Katrina.


More history about Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church. This site, sponsored by the Old Philadelphia Congregations, gives a brief history of the church plus two pictures of the church building; an exterior view prior to 1837 and a modern day view of the interior.


Even more history about Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church. This site, sponsored by the Independence Hall Association (IHA), gives a full, detailed description of the founding and colonial era of the church.