The First Unitarian Church of Baltimore

The First Unitarian Church of Baltimore (HM4E1)

Location: Baltimore, MD 21201
Country: United States of America

N 39° 17.712', W 76° 36.938'

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Photo Credits: [1] SEPTEMBERSPARROW1666  [2] SEPTEMBERSPARROW1666  [3] SEPTEMBERSPARROW1666  
Inscription

(Unitarian and Universalist)

In 1817, when Baltimore Town boasted 60,000 inhabitants and Mount Vernon Place was still a forest, a group of leading citizens met in the home of Henry Payson "to form a religious society and build a church for Christians who are Unitarian and cherish liberal sentiments on the subject of religion." The name selected for the church, The First Unitarian Church of Baltimore was a precursor to the independence of thought and action that would become the hallmark of this group of free thinkers and succeeding generations. The name was changed to the current one in 1935, when the church merged with the Second Universalist Church.

The Rev. Dr. William Ellery Channing delivered a landmark sermon here on May 5, 1819, at the ordination of the first minister, Jared Sparks. The sermon, defined the essence of Unitarianism in the United States and led to the formation of the denomination in 1824. This has come to be known as the Baltimore Sermon. Channing emphasized freedom, reason, and tolerance and taught that the way we live is more important than the words and symbols we use to describe our faith, a truth that has inspired a commitment to social justice with theological diversity.

Throughout its history, the church has been committed to community service. During the Civil War, the Reverend John F. W. Ware worked with abolitionists and tended to Union soldiers. He later organized and directed the Baltimore Association for the Moral and Intellectual Improvement of Colored People, which established over 200 schools for freed slaves. In 1874, the congregation organized Baltimore's first vocational school for teenagers. Distinguished members have included artist Rembrandt Peale, George Peabody, the founder of the Peabody Conservatory, Enoch Pratt, founder of Baltimore's free public library system, and Mary Richmond, a pioneer in the field of professional social work and philanthropy.

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Built in 1818 by Maximilian Godefroy, The First Unitarian Church of Baltimore is recognized as the finest American example of French Romantic Classicism. A daring modern design when it was constructed, the building utilizes the basic shapes of the cube and the sphere with a minimum of detail on the flat planes to emphasize the geometry of the structure. It is the first building in North America built to be and used continuously as a Unitarian church. In the late 19th century, major reconstruction of the interior and sanctuary was undertaken, when a Tiffany mosaic and windows were added, as well as the magnificent Niemann organ.
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Details
HM NumberHM4E1
Series This marker is part of the Maryland: Baltimore City Historical Markers series
Tags
Historical Period20th Century, 19th Century
Historical PlaceNational Natural Landmark, Church/House of Worship
Marker TypeHistoric Building
Marker ClassHistorical Marker
Marker StyleMounted
Placed ByThe City of Baltimore, William Donald Schaefer, mayor, rededicated 2008, Shiela Dixon, mayor
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014 at 5:33pm PDT -07:00
Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 360678 N 4350780
Decimal Degrees39.29520000, -76.61563333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 39° 17.712', W 76° 36.938'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds39° 17' 42.7200" N, 76° 36' 56.2800" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)410, 443, 301
Can be seen from road?Yes
Is marker in the median?No
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling West
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 500-514 N Charles St, Baltimore MD 21201, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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