About Knox Church

The History of Knox Church

On Wednesday, July 10, 1895, a committee of the Presbytery of Cincinnati met to organize Knox Presbyterian Church. At the suggestion of T.J. Nichol, the committee approved the name “Knox”, which honored theologian John Knox. The new church received 34 members, 24 by letter from other churches and 10 by Profession of Faith.

For the next three years, people met at the home of Robert J.H. Archiable at 3827 Drake Avenue. The small informal group of 1892 achieved a good measure of success, but they were still a church without a home of its own. The need for a permanent location became a matter for discussion. In 1895 Hyde Park Hall became available as a possible meeting place. The imposing sounding “Hall” was a barren room over a feed store on the north side of what is now Griffith Ave. The “Hall” became Knox's temporary home.

The original Knox building

From a selection of lots offered free to the church by the Hyde Park Syndicate, the congregation picked a 50' x 150' site at the northeast corner of Erie and Shaw Avenues. Financing the erection of the building by a congregation of less than 40 for $10,000 is a story in itself. They laid the cornerstone on October 14, 1895, in a ceremony attended by town and church officials. To provide for future growth, the building included a sanctuary that seated 250, with a church school separated from the sanctuary by a door that could be raised and lowered to create one large unit. This first entirely brick church in the area was dedicated on April 7, 1896.

In 1896, Knox Presbyterian Church called its first full time pastor, Rev. William Spiegel. He served until 1901 at the salary of $800 a year. Adelbert Higley, a seminary student succeeded Rev. Spiegel in 1901, and was ordained shortly after assuming the pulpit. In 1904, youthful Theodore Hays followed Rev Spiegel.The church completed its first renovation in 1907. Rev. George Lamb served as pastor between 1909 and 1913. The church completed its second remodeling during these years at a cost of $10,000. The “Be and Do Society,” with the aid of Andrew Carnegie, purchased a motor-driven pipe organ.

When Rev. David T. Neely arrived in 1914, Knox had a membership of 325, a tenfold increase during the first nineteen years, and an annual budget of $5,000. Then in 1919, the Rev. Herbert Hezlep came to begin his 19 year pastorate, the longest to date. The church began a Lay Evangelism Program, which sent officers and laypersons out in pairs to call on prospective members. This was a deciding factor in the continuing membership growth. With enthusiasm at a high point, Knox became the largest church in Cincinnati Presbytery.

On April 22, 1928, Knox Church broke ground for a new church building, and laid the cornerstone on September 16th of that year. The church held its initial service in the new facilities on May 26, 1929. At an initial cost of $360,000, Knox began a new era in its present location on the corner of Michigan and Observatory Avenues in Hyde Park.

the current Knox building

Rev. Fred Olert succeeded Rev. Hezlep when he retired in 1937.


Rev. Edward W. Stimson followed Rev. Fred Olert to Knox in July, 1944 and remained until January, 1953. The Presbyterian New Life Movement added 800 members to the Knox rolls in this era. The church expanded to a second service in October 1946 to accommodate the enlarged congregation. As the church continued to grow in the post-war years, it added a new school and chapel at a cost of $150,000 in the fall of 1950.

Rev. Melvin R. Campbell succeeded Dr. Stimson in 1953. It was during Rev. Campbell's pastorate that the weekday nursery school began in 1956. Upon his departure in 1958, the congregation welcomed Dr. John Olert, who served as pastor until 1967. In 1994, Louisville Seminary presented the first John Olert Scholarship to its school here at Knox Church.

Knox celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1970 during the pastorate of Dr. Bickford Lang, who was senior pastor from 1968 through 1972. The church made several updates to its physical facilities in 1970, including renovating the sanctuary, rearranging the chancel, installing the new Holtkamp organ, and installing ductwork for the eventual air conditioning of the church. During this period, a local radio station broadcast Knox’s Sunday morning service live each Sunday. The church called Dr. Arthur McKay in 1973 to be Knox's 12th pastor.

The 70's saw a tremendous expansion of adult education. Highly regarded Dr. Earl Rivers came to Knox in 1974 as its Director of Music, and he is still with us today. In 1977, the church called Dr. Bert McCormick to be it's 13th senior pastor to succeed Dr. McKay.

Rev. Gordon Stewart, who served Knox from 1983 to 1994, was known as a consensus-builder. The church raised $1,500,000 during this time to again renovate our church. Changes included making the building handicap accessible with two ramps, creating a new and garden area, restructuring the chapel, remodeling the office area, and installing new heating and air conditioning. Knox saw an increase in teenage and youth membership during this time, and joined the Interfaith Hospitality Network for area churches to provide shelter and care for homeless families.

In the Spring of 1996, Knox welcomed the 15th pastor of Knox Presbyterian Church, Rev. Thomas D. York. Under his leadership the church purchased two properties on the east side of the church's sanctuary. This marked the beginning of the most significant physical addition to the church since its original build in 1929. This $6 million project, completed in 2008, became known as Knox Commons, and includes a new multi-purpose room with multi-media capabilities and a seating capacity of 275. The church holds its contemporary worship service each Sunday in this new facility. The new atrium in the Knox Commons area of the church is named in honor of Dr. John Olert Jr., Pastor Emeritus.

Rev. Jana Reister joined the Knox staff as associate pastor in October 2009. Jana came to us from First Presbyterian church in Ann Arbor, MI, bringing with her a rich background from the Peace Corps and small group ministries.


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