What church did James Madison attend?

James Madison and his wife, Dolley (Dorathea), attended St. John’s Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square, founded in 1815. Benjamin Henry LaTrobe, famed Architect of the Capitol, was chosen to design this church, called, “Church of the Presidents,” which he did, refusing remuneration for his work done, “to the glory of God.”
Before arranging for the sale of the pews, the vestry requested Thomas Gillis and John van Ness to wait upon James Madison, the President of the United States, to offer him the choice of a pew “without his being obliged to purchase the same.” In acknowledging the courtesy, President Madison asked the committee to select a pew for him. They chose pew number 28, thereafter reserved in the Church of the Presidents for him and his White House successors. 1
Madison’s pew is designated with a bronze plaque – Pew no. 54 (the number of his pew having been changed from 28 to 54, after the high-backed pews were lowered).
The first service in the new church took place on October 27, 1816. The Reverend William H. Wilmer, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria, officiated, as he did again at the service on the following Sunday. James and Dolley Madison were regular worshippers at St. John’s Episcopal Church while at the White House. Rev. William H. Wilmer served as rector of “the Church of the Presidents” from 1816-1817 – becoming President of the College of William and Mary in 1826.
Every United States President, from James Madison to the present, has worshipped in “the President’s pew” at the “Church of the Presidents.” 2

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Archives of St. John’s Episcopal Church – “Church of the Presidents,” Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C.



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