St. Ignatius Church opened August 15, 1856. Designed by Henry Hamilton Pittar and Louis L. Long, it was the second unit to be completed in the block-long complex that stretches from Madison to Monument Streets. In 1855, the porticoed central section was built for Loyola College and since 1993 has been the home of St. Ignatius Loyola Academy.
The relatively simple exterior of the church belies the elegant Baroque interior, which features elaborate plaster work executed by Charles B. Anderson and two large paintings, as well as the altarpiece, by Brumidi, artist of Washington's Capitol rotunda. The original organ, built in Boston by William D.D. Simmons, is still in use.
A year after the church opened, the basement Chapel of the Blessed Peter Claver was designated for the use of Catholics of color, who had been worshipping at St. Mary's Seminary on Pennsylvania Avenue from shortly after their arrival in Baltimore in 1791.
In September 1860 Father Peter L. Miller, SJ, friend and ecclesiastical director of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, allotted twelve pews in the chapel for the use of the Sisters and the children in their care. The chapel was filled to capacity. Thus began a legacy of friendship and cooperation between Mother Mary Lange, OSP, her daughters the Oblate Sisters, and Saint Ignatius Church.
In 1863, African-American Catholics moved from the chapel to the old Universalist Church building at Calvert and Pleasant streets to found St. Francis Xavier Church, the first black Catholic parish in the United States. In December 1871 the parish was turned over to the Mill Hill Fathers, the predecessors of the American Josephites.
The chapel, later renamed the Chapel of Grace, is now home to the Radio Mass of Baltimore.
The third and last section of this complex was designed as an annex to Loyola College by Thomas C. Kennedy in 1899. By 1970 this southern wing was vacant. Through the generosity of the Society of Jesus, owner of the St. Ignatius complex, and an arrangement with the city of Baltimore, Center Stage acquired the building in 1975.