Southeastern Virginia is home to a lot of old, historic churches. About the only remaining original building at Jamestown is a church built in 1639 (although it’s really just the foundation remaining). Bill grew up attending Eastern Shore Chapel in Virginia Beach, which has been meeting continuously in various places since 1689. And the last colonial era building still standing in Norfolk is St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, built in 1739. This church boasts having a pre-Revolutionary War cannon ball in one of its exterior walls.
In today’s post, we visit another historic church, St. Luke’s, in Isle of Wight County just outside Smithfield.
It was built around 1632 in Warrosquyoake Parrish. The townsfolk renamed the community to something easier to pronounce – Isle of Wight County. St. Luke’s is the only surviving original Gothic building in the country and it’s definitely worth a visit.
We began our visit at the gift shop where we purchased tour tickets. A delightful tour guide who was full of information and trivia led us on a very lively tour. We walk through the cemetery to get to the church. We both love to look at old grave stones, and there are plenty here.
Inside we saw a rare 17th century American altar, and various antique chairs and bibles. A highlight is an extremely rare 1630 English chamber organ, which was gifted to the church in the 1950’s. It’s the only one of its kind in the world and the guide will play a recording so you can hear what it sounds like.
St. Luke’s served its community through many years. As was not uncommon, Civil War troops camped out inside the church. It was abandoned for some years, but has been nicely restored. There is very little electrical lighting inside, so services are not held at the church any more. However, it is used for baptisms, weddings, and other special events.
It was fun to walk back to the visitor’s center through the cemetery. A lot of Isle of Wight notables are buried here, including Joseph Luter, who made Smithfield Foods (and the town) what it is today. There’s a guide book that shows who is buried where.
The church is only about an hour from Hampton Roads and is worth a visit. It’s on winter hours now, open daily 9:30-4:00 and Sundays 1:00-4:00.