St. Matthew's Church

John Hawks, attributed architect (1768-1769); George Hoskins, cabinetmaker (1784-1786); Martin Palmer, carpenter (1784-1786)

1768-1769; 1784-1786 [remodeled]

Hillsborough, Orange County
Street Address:

N. Churton St. at Tryon St., Hillsborough, NC


No longer standing



Images Published In:

Catherine W. Bishir, Charlotte V. Brown, Carl R. Lounsbury, and Ernest H. Wood III, Architects and Builders in North Carolina: A History of the Practice of Building (1990).


In 1768 the vestry of the Anglican church in Hillsborough advertised in the Virginia Gazette of Feb. 4, 1768, for bidders to erect a church in the community, and to apply at the clerk’s office in Hillsborough to be “more particularly informed. Drawings—a side elevation and a plan placed in the John Hawks Papers at the Southern Historical Collection—are for that church. Although unsigned, the style of drawing and the handwriting appear to be from Hawks’s hand.

The colonial church stood at the corner of Tryon and Church Streets, on the site now occupied by the Presbyterian church. The parish of St. Matthew’s was organized in 1752, and in 1767, Gov. William Tryon assigned George Micklejohn as minister; it would have been natural to obtain a design from Hawks. During the Regulator movement, demonstrators threatened in 1770 to damage the newly completed church, but were dissuaded. In 1778, political leader James Iredell of Edenton wrote that the town of Hillsborough included “a remarkable handsome church,” which was the Anglican one. The building was damaged during the American Revolution, during which time it served as a war hospital. Especially important, the church was the meeting place for the North Carolina Constitutional Convention of 1788, in which the delegates refused to ratify the Federal constitution; it was ratified the next year in Fayetteville, after the Bill of Rights had been added. The church was extensively repaired and remodeled in 1784-1786 by carpenter Martin Palmer and others to serve as a boys’ academy. It fell into disuse in the early 1800s, and the church for the newly established Presbyterian congregation was built on its site in 1815-1816 (John Berry, Samuel Hancock). In the 1820s the formerly Anglican parish reorganized and built the present St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church (William Nichols; John Berry).