The founding of First Unitarian in Louisville in 1830 was a direct outgrowth of a decision by the newly formed AUA to send newly trained ministers westward. The church was founded by six local families and raised enough funds to erect a permanent building in 1832. In the early years of the church, the ministers often also played key roles in local history. James Freeman Clarke edited the Western Messenger, a Unitarian journal.  John Healy Heywood was an agent for the Louisville School system and saw the establishment of the first male and female public high schools.

Historical marker #2173 in Louisville acknowledges the contributions of the First Unitarian Church toward the civil rights and women’s suffrage movements. The First Unitarian Church hosted Susan B. Anthony and Carrie Chapman Catt in January of 1895, during their tour through the South to promote women’s suffrage. SEE OUR HISTORICAL MARKER

SEE OUR NATIONAL REGISTER LISTING or click the link below for more information
76000903 National Register number Church of the Messiah

Download First Unitarian Church History 1830 to 2005 by John Findling and Jennifer Lavery.
See Also: The Encyclopedia of Louisville.


Church building at the corner of Fourth and York Streets in the 1920s.

1830: First Unitarian Society of Louisville is formed
1832: Unitarians dedicate new building on the corner of Fifth and Walnut
1840: Universalists buy and repair a building on Chapel Street
1843: Universalists build a new building in the 800 block of West Market Street
1852: Unitarians expand building to add more pews
1865: First Unitarian establishes the Widows’ and Orphans’ Home
1869: Unitarians and Universalists merge in Louisville to form a new church called The Church of the Messiah
1871: New building is dedicated at the corner of Fourth and York Street
1872: Building is rededicated after a fire destroyed the building in late 1871
1895: Susan B. Anthony and Carrie Chapman Catt speak on suffrage outside the church
1918: Name of church is changed back to First Unitarian
1951: Theophilus Conrad Parish House is dedicated
1957-1960: Thomas Jefferson church planted
1979: Campus expanded to include Heywood House property
1985-1989: Fire destroys building, congregation meets at Plymouth Church
1989: Re-built building is dedicated and congregation moves back into the building

Ministers who have served First Unitarian Church of Louisville
1832-1833 George Chapman
1833-1839 James Freeman Clark
1840-1880 John Healy Heywood
1880-1883 CJK Jones
1883-1884 John B Green
1884-1898 CJK Jones
1898-1900 Arthur Littlefield
1900-1902 Frederick Hawley
1903-1909 William H Ramsey
1910-1916 Maxwell Savage
1916-1919 Dilworth Lupton
1919-1923 R. Ernest Akin
1923-1930 Lon Ray Call
1930-1937 Richard WF Seebode
1938-1941 Carl B Bihldorff
1942-1945 Maynard Van Dyke
1946-1960 Robert T Weston
1961-1963 Phillip Smith
1963-1967 David Brown
1968-1985 Robert Reed
Interim: Virginia Knowles
1986-2001 Richard Beal
Interim: David Parke
2002-2006 Norm Stewart
Interim: Betsy Schuermann
Interim: Alma Crawford
2009-2016 Dawn Cooley
Interim: Kathy Hurt
2019 – 2022 Lori Kyle
Interim: Mary Ann Macklin