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With the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, the isolation of Salt Lake City was broken, and the Church of the Latter Day Saints witnessed an ever-increasing non-Mormon population in their city. Sheldon Jackson recruited newly ordained home missionary Josiah Welsh (1841–1876) to organize a Protestant congregation.

The First Presbyterian Church was organized in November, 1871 with eleven members. Its first building, built with monies solicited in the East, was the first home of Westminster College, and was occupied for thirty years before the congregation, which grew to over five hundred members, moved to its present facility. Walter E. Ware designed the Gothic Revival structure, with its low square tower and patterned on the cathedral church of Carlyle, England. The exterior was built of locally quarried red butte stone with hard stone trim.

First occupied in 1905, the congregation substantially enlarged, renovated, and modernized it in 1956. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. It is also Entry No. 323 on the American Presbyterian/Reformed Historic Sites Registry.