You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the history surrounding a church that has stood the test of time. While it has nothing on the grand cathedrals of Rome, Atlanta has seen its share of changes since the days it was known as Terminus, and some churches have survived to tell the stories. Both large and small buildings remain today, some containing fascinating artwork and architecture dating back to the Civil War era. Whether it’s to learn about the past or to attend a sermon, these buildings are worth a visit.
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
435 Peachtree St. N.E.
Atlanta, GA 30308
Established in 1864, St. Luke’s is now a thriving church boasting a congregation in the thousands. You’ll be impressed by the glass windows, which took over 60 years to create, coming from three different glass studios. The impressive organ dates back to the 1960s but was recently renovated, as was the bell tower. Be sure to catch a concert to hear the organ in action.
Ebenezer Baptist Church
400 Auburn Ave. N.E.
Atlanta, GA 30312
You can’t mention historic churches in Atlanta without including a reference to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Ebenezer Baptist is the church where Dr. King was a pastor, and therefore it merits inclusion on any list of Atlanta’s famous places of worship. It is open during the week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for visits. You can also join the Sunday sermons in the Horizon Sanctuary across the street.
437 Mitchell St. S.W.
Atlanta, GA 30313
Friendship Baptist is Atlanta’s oldest African-American church. It was organized by former slaves in 1866 and they originally met in a train boxcar. These days, you will find lots of students from Morehouse and Spelman in attendance at the services, for both universities have their roots closely associated to the church – Spelman began in its basement in 1881. It’s also a great place to spot local celebrities and politicians.
First United Methodist Church
360 Peachtree St. N.E.
Atlanta, GA 30306
First United Methodist Church is such a piece of Atlanta’s history that it was even mentioned in Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind.” This church dates back to the time when Atlanta was known as “Marthasville” and was just a tiny Southern town. After building two versions of the church – the second in 1870 – the church sold the property to Asa Candler, Coca Cola’s founder. The congregation moved to its current location on Peachtree Street and although there have been many attempts to move the church over the years, it has chosen to remain in the center of town. Accordingly, it is one of the easier buildings to visit if you are touring the area.
The Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
48 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive S.W.
Atlanta, GA 30303
Atlanta isn’t necessarily a Catholic town, but this church is housed in one of the oldest buildings downtown. In fact, the resident priest was able to convince Union troops to save the original building as General William Tecumseh Sherman’s men burned the rest of the city. Although the church was spared from the flames that destroyed the rest of the city, it did suffer damage from shell blasts and when the war drums ceased, Atlanta’s returning citizens decided to erect a new church on the site in 1869. It is a beautiful, historic building, and the current congregation is known to be welcoming to all who wish to participate. The church is equally well known for its wind pipe organ and its friendly atmosphere, making it a uniquely Southern take on the religion.
Keely Herrick is a freelance writer. Her work can be found on