St. Luke’s Church, near Smithfield in Isle of Wight County, Virginia claims to be the oldest surviving church in Virginia still standing in the United States. According to local lore, the structure was built in 1632, however, much evidence suggests a date of 1682.
The church, a single-room brick structure with a twenty-foot-square tower began as an Anglican Church. When the Anglican Churchdisbanded in America after the Revolutionary War and services were halted and not held again until 1821 when it became an Episcopal Church.
This church, also known as Old Brick Church is a gothic style, Flemish-bond brickwork building with buttresses, stepped gables, medieval,timber trussed roof, and the original brick traceried windows. The building has undergone two renovations in its 336-year history. These restorations combine several architectural styles. The original clear diamond-paned, leaded glass windows were replaced with Tiffany-style, stained glass windows in the 19th century.
The primary entrance is through the tower archway. As one walks down the nave toward the chancel, there is some box seating in front for the gentry, with pews located behind. The current pews are more modern than the high-back pews that would have been there in colonial times.
Around 1652, Joseph Bridger, a young English royalist established Whitemarsh, the largest estate south of the James River and the second largest home in 17th-century Virginia. He was the principal financier of the St. Luke’s and some of his remains are prominently interred in the chancel of the church.
A rare 1630 English Chamber Organ, once owned by a family of Hunstanton Hall, Norfolk, England for over 300 years sits in the side of the chancel and is in playing order. It has a paneled oak case and painted front wooden pipes. The inside of the folding doors are painted with Biblical characters.
St. Luke’s, still an open cemetery, has gravestones from every era. A beautiful statue of St. Luke is situated where it can be easily seen by visitors.
St. Luke's was designated a National Historic Landmark October of 1966 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1957 the site was designated a National Shrine at the time of the 350th anniversary of Jamestown.
Visitors to St. Luke’s, 14477 Benns Church Blvd, Smithfield, VA 23430 can have guided tours seven days a week between February and December.
The Site is also available for private rentals including weddings, funerals, baptisms, and other special events.
If you are near Smithfield, Virginia, it’s well worth a visit.