In 1823, Andrew Jackson and several of his neighbors donated money to build a neighborhood church. Jackson also donated land and possibly enslaved labor from The Hermitage for the project.
Completed in January 1824, the brick building measured 50 feet by 30 feet. The church’s interior featured a brick floor with benches in a semicircle arranged around a pulpit on the building’s west wall. Fireplaces on the north and south walls heated this simple, rural structure. The original nine members named their new house of worship Ephesus Church. Though non-denominational initially, the congregation soon affiliated with the Presbyterian Church.
Andrew Jackson's Promise
In 1838, Jackson finally fulfilled a promise he made to Rachel before her death in 1828 to join the church once he was free of political entanglements.
Jackson and other church members reconfigured the Ephesus Church to face the newly built Lebanon Turnpike in 1839. The doors on the east side of the building were bricked in and three windows cut into the east wall. The windows on the south wall were replaced with two doors.
Additionally, the pulpit was moved to the north wall and the benches were replaced with boxed pews arranged on either side of a north-south center aisle. Because the new pulpit covered the north chimney, the congregation replaced the lost heat source with a stove.
After Jackson's Death
After Jackson’s death, the Hermitage Church continued to grow in membership, except during the Civil War when services ceased. Architecturally, the church remained the same as it was in 1839 except for the installation of taller, narrower windows and new cornices in 1889. Between 1935 and 1965, the Ladies’ Hermitage Association made several attempts to buy the church from the congregation in order to preserve another piece of Jackson’s heritage but were unsuccessful.
Preservation of the Hermitage Church
In February 1965, fire gutted the Hermitage Church leaving only its brick walls intact. The Hermitage Church congregation finally sold the building’s remains to the LHA in return for land on the edge of the Hermitage property and funds toward building a new church on it. After thorough research, the foundation restored the Hermitage Church to its 1839 appearance.
Today, the church is occasionally open to Hermitage visitors and can always be viewed from its exterior. The Hermitage Church is regularly used for weddings, memorials and other events. The Hermitage Presbyterian Church congregation traditionally holds an Easter Sunrise Service at the Hermitage Church.