Old American Churches and Synagogues

From Bill Bennett’s American Patriots’ Almanac:

The oldest Catholic parish in the United States is the parish of St. Augustine, Florida (the oldest city in the United States). It traces its roots to September 8, 1565, when a Spanish landing party led by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés came ashore and conducted a mass. The parish register dates to 1594.

The first Protestant church in a permanent settlement was erected at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. At first the settlers used a tent to worship, then a series of wooden structures. In 1617 they built a church of timber construction on a foundation of brick and cobble. In 1619 the first representative legislative assembly in the Western Hemisphere met in this church.

The oldest standing Protestant church building is Historic St. Luke’s Church in Smithfield, Virginia. Built around 1632 and once known as the Old Brick Church, it was founded as an Anglican church. It is the nation’s only original Gothic church building. It also houses the nation’s oldest intact organ.

The first synagogue was a one-room house in New York City, rented in 1682 by Congregation Shearith Israel (the nation’s oldest Jewish congregation, established in 1654). In 1730 the congregation constructed a small stone building on Mill Street (now South William Street).

The oldest standing synagogue is the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, completed in 1763. In a famous letter to the congregation about religious liberty, George Washington avowed that the United States “gives to bigotry no sanction,” and that when anyone wishes to worship God in his own way, “there shall be none to make him afraid.”

The first cathedral was the Baltimore Cathedral, now officially known as the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Its cornerstone was laid July 7, 1806, and the building was dedicated on May 31, 1821.