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Our History

Who We Are

Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church was organized in 1921 from roots extending back to 1894. It was incorporated in 1987. Located two blocks from Duke University’s East Campus in Trinity Park, it is an active church whose members come from a wide spectrum of ages, interests, and occupations.

The congregation is drawn from suburbs and diverse residential areas. The church program emphasizes the service of worship, Christian education, and outreach (mission and community service). Trinity Avenue Church is reformed in theology. Both congregation and staff place a strong emphasis on the spiritual quality of the church’s life.

The sense of mission and purpose expressed in the covenant of organization dated May 16, 1921, is still valid and challenging for us today: “…to walk together as disciples of Jesus Christ in a church relationship according to the provisions of the constitution of the Presbyterian Church…to seek in its fellowship to glorify the name and further the cause of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Our Roots

In 1894, the Rev. L. B. Turnbull, Minister at First Presbyterian Church in Durham, was instrumental in opening a mission at the Pearl Cotton Mill on Trinity Avenue.  It started as a Sunday School for children of mill workers that met in a mill cottage on Washington Street; adult Sunday School classes began to meet as well. A year

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George Watts

(Photo: ca. 1870s)

later a chapel was built on the mill property on what is now the southeast corner of Duke St and Trinity Avenue; it was known as Pearl Mill Chapel.  George Watts, one of the original organizers of the American Tobacco Company and the Erwin Cotton Mills Company, and the president of Pearl Cotton Mill was involved in leading a regular Sunday School class and Friday evening prayer meeting.

In February 1902, Dr. Edward R. Leyburn was installed as the pastor of First Presbyterian Church and quickly became an advocate for the ministry of Pearl Mill Chapel. 

By December of that same year, the chapel was reorganized as Second Presbyterian Church of Durham.

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On June 29, 1914, the directors of Pearl Cotton Mill met and determined to deed Second Presbyterian Church a parcel of land on the northwest corner of Duke St and Trinity Avenue donate $1000 to church to help them move from their current location on the southeast corner.  For reasons of timing and inadequate funds the church did not move lots.  

At another meeting on December 23, 1916, the directors moved to give the church an additional $200 toward moving; the church agreed then to deed back the lot that had been granted in 1914.  Later, in 1917, the church ended up moving to double lots on the southside of Trinity Avenue toward Gregson St, about 3-4 lots from Duke St. 


Sunday School class in 1910, Second Presbyterian Church

New Beginnings:
The Birth of Trinity Avenue

From 1919 through 1920 the church’s financial situation became weak and workers were so scarce that the Presbytery dissolved the Second Presbyterian Church. However, the work of the church was carried on by means of Sunday School and prayer meetings.


A few remaining loyal members, with the help of three elders from First Church, organized a special revival service. Rev. O.G. Jones, D.D., a Syndical Evangelist, held overwhelmingly successful services from May 9-May 17, 1921. On the evening of May 16, after a sermon by Dr. Jones, the people of the congregation reorganized. Seventy people desired to join. Dr. Jones  declared them to be duly organized under the name Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church. Rev. R.S. Carson served as part-time pastor for the first five months until Mr. George L. Cooper was called, the first full-time minister. Mr. Cooper put an extra effort into a membership drive in 1923. Once again, the church’s financial situation had reached a dangerous point. He visited the Big Brother’s Men’s Bible Class at First Presbyterian Church, and as a result of prayer and a passionate plea, a delegation of 38 members, followed the next week by 16 more, moved their membership to Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church in January 1924.

On January 30, 1924, Dr. Henry C. Carr and Mr. Laurance D. Kirkland, Sr. were given the authority to proceed in the exchange of the present church site for a lot on the southeast corner of Trinity Avenue and Gregson Street. On February 7, the exchange from the Pearl Cotton Mill was approved at a meeting held just three days after the Corporation passed their resolution, at which time a Building Committee was elected including Henry C. Carr, Laurence D. Kirkland, Sr., Perry A. Sloan, Sr., and I.W. Bingham. (In a very short time, Bingham was replaced by Edgar A. Williamson.)

Rose and Rose were the architects and N. Underwood was the contractor for the new building for which the cornerstone was laid later in 1924.

The first service in the new sanctuary was held Sunday, October 18, 1925.

Just over 25 years later, an education wing was completed in January 1956 just east of the sanctuary.  However, on January 15, 1966, there was a fire and the education wing suffered significant damage.  It was repaired soon after (this part of the building is now where the church offices are).  And in 2004 a major expansion of the church facilities occurred with the construction of a new education wing, a fellowship hall, a new narthex, and our 2nd-floor chapel.

By grace, what God started here over one-hundred years ago still continues, trusting God, living in Christ, and loving all!


A handwritten remembrance of the organization of 2nd Presbyterian Church as it was 1919-1920; written by Mrs. Black, the wife of one of the elders.

TAPC Building Committee

Laurance D. Kirkland, Sr.


Perry A. Sloan, Sr.



Henry C. Carr



Edgar Allen Williamson



Durham Morning Herald Sun Newspaper

Sunday, October 18, 1925

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TAPC Worship Bulletin: Sunday, October 9, 1949

Take a closer look! Click on the image to download a PDF of this bulletin.

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Pastors Gallery

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