The First Presbyterian Church of San Luis Obispo, CA was founded on May 13, 1875 with eleven charter members. The person primarily responsible in this undertaking was County Judge McDowell Reid Venable. He was elected by the new members as the first (and only) ruling elder. He served as the clerk of the Session until his death in 1907.
During the first five years property was purchased at the corner of Marsh and Morro streets and a small, plain church building was erected. In 1884 it was replaced by a fine redwood church seating 200 and having stained glass windows and a bell tower. In 1904 this building was moved to the lot next door and it was used by our congregation and the community for over two more decades. The present sanctuary was then built on the corner using granite quarried from Bishop Peak in northwestern San Luis Obispo. It was completed on December 4, 1905. The Educational Unit (which we know today as the Hart Building) was constructed and dedicated in February 1929. A local newspaper noted that it was the first building, other than a church, to be devoted exclusively to religious education in San Luis Obispo. The A.G. Wilson Fellowship Hall was built in 1987. It has been the center of our church fellowship activities and it is also used for many community events.
Our Sunday School was started in 1878 by Miss Lily Bouldin, one of the church’s charter members. At the February 24, 1895 Annual Meeting the congregation voted to create a Board of Deacons and elected the first two deacons. Formerly, the women’s work in our church was divided into two distinct branches. We had both a Ladies’ Aid Society and a Women’s Missionary Society. In 1947 they merged into what was then the Women’s Association and what we know today as Presbyterian Women. During World War II our church developed strong bonds of mutual service with soldiers and military units at Camp San Luis Obispo. Our facilities were used for various activities by the USO and the wives of soldiers. In 1956 our first assistant pastor was also the first campus pastor to Cal Poly students. That student ministry continues today and we know it as Front Porch. In the 1960s a group of our senior members was very active in the community and formed the nucleus of what is now the San Luis Obispo Senior Center. Over the years our church and its members have been very active in supporting and being involved in world and local missions.Downtown San Luis Obispo first heard chimes from the top of the Hart Building on July 4, 1951. They were played by volunteers from a little keyboard located by the organ. In 1977 the system was upgraded and automated and it now chimes the hours and plays concerts at noon and 5 p.m. In 1973, three octaves of handbells were purchased with memorial funds and a handbell choir was formed. Eventually 4th and 5th octaves were added and later another handbell set of three octaves was purchased to enhance our youth music program.

Over the years our church has had twelve installed pastors. The first was the Rev. Hugh Dobbins in 1878 and our present pastor is the Rev. Dennis Falasco, who came to us from Idaho Falls in October 2014. The motto adopted for our 125th anniversary celebration in the year 2000 was, “Always the Rock of Faith at Marsh and Morro.”
Today, while not forgetting our history, we strive to be active and lively – to be the church Jesus talks about in the Bible – in a number of ways. This is who we are. Come join us!