Originally called “The First Independent Church of Baltimore,” our church has the distinction of being the oldest building in the United States built for, and used ever since by, a Unitarian congregation.
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. In the late 19th century, major reconstruction of the interior of the sanctuary was undertaken, when a barrel-vaulted ceiling, a Tiffany mosaic and seven windows and a magnificent Niemann organ were added. Joseph E. Sperry — the architect of Baltimore’s iconic Bromo-Seltzer Arts Tower — designed the ceiling.
Antonio Capellano made the original terra cotta relief, Angel of Truth, on the front of the church. The Greek inscription on the scroll translates “To the One God.” Noted Baltimore sculptor, Henry Berge (1908-1998), constructed a replica of the Angel of Truth in the late 1950s to replace the decayed original.
It was from our pulpit on May 5, 1819 that William Ellery Channing (1780-1842) delivered the pivotal Baltimore Sermon, staking out the theological claims of the soon-to-emerge Unitarian denomination in America. Several years ago, members renovated the pulpit.
The parish hall was donated by prominent member and philanthropist Enoch Pratt in 1879. The bricks were salvaged from Mulberry Street row houses that were demolished to make way for the central branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Libary. In 2008, the parish hall was renamed Enoch Pratt Parish Hall in his honor. The hall has restored to its original glory, with hand-made, period chandeliers and special paint treatments that reflect the room’s original style, while paying homage to historic church members.
Enoch Pratt also donated the Niemann organ, which sits boldly in the choir loft. The organ is being restored, bit by bit.