The First Presbyterian Church represents one of the social and religious organizations of the permanent residential community in Wichita during the 1870s. Churches played an important role in the development of the social, cultural, and political climate in 1870s Wichita. They took an active role in defining the standards they believed would lend to developing a family orientated climate. The Presbyterian church was active in the local Temperance movement, supported blue laws and other anti vice activities that flourished in the town.
In 1870, the Presbyterian congregation built the first permanent church structure in the town at the intersection of Wichita and Second Streets for $1500. There was much resistance from church leaders in the East that were not comfortable spending such a sum in a town with such a lawless reputation.
In late 1872, the church was sold for $550 and became Saint Aloysius Gonzaga Catholic Church; it was then moved to 2nd and St. Francis Ave. Later, the building was used as a boarding house owned by Mrs. Millie Hodge who moved the structure to the 600 block of N. Main. A second story was added to the structure as a boarding house, and windows were added on the front of the first floor. After a fire in 1949 destroyed the second floor, the building was condemned.
However, this structure that once served as a religious center for the first settlers of Wichita was about to serve the City once again. Eighty years after its construction, the building sparked a project that was to become Old Cowtown Museum.
In the early 1940s the dilapidated structure caught the attention of Victor Murdock, Editor of the Wichita Eagle. Murdock and Managing Editor Dick Long determined that this building was important to Wichita's history. Murdock tried to purchase the building but died before he could accomplish his goal. In a tale of last-minute rescue in 1949, Dick Long bought it from a salvage company for $400, a price which included what was believed to be the adjacent parsonage.
Long and other civic-minded Wichitans founded Historic Wichita Cowtown, Inc. to raise money for restoration. They also planned to acquire other buildings in honor of Murdock's dream. In 1952 the Church and Parsonage (later discovered to actually be the Hodge House), the Munger House, and the Jail were moved to a site on the Arkansas River which has become the grounds of Old Cowtown Museum.
Wichita architect Harry Overend directed the restoration of the frame structure to insure historic authenticity. The hand-hewn trusses were retained and native walnut was harvested to replace the floors.