First Baptist Church
First Baptist Church c. 1910. Image courtesy Ken Frew
The First Baptist Church of Harrisburg can trace its roots to 1830 when the Rev. Dyer A. Nicols was sent to Harrisburg by the Pennsylvania Baptist Board of Missions to organize a congregation. The church first met that year in the Unitarian Church on Locust Streeet that would later become the Methodist Church in 1837. The first baptism took place there on July 4, 1830. A year later in 1831, the Church, that was organized as the First Baptist Mission Church of Harrisburg and a building was erected on Front Street between Walnut and Pine Streets as the congregation’s first home. Because of its growth in membership, the congregation vacated this building and started on a new one in 1854 on the southeast corner of N. Second and Pine Streets. Designed by Philadelphia architects Joseph C. Hoxie (who also designed Market Square Presbyterian Church) and Norris G. Starkweather, the building was under roof by 1858 but was not completed until 1865 due to the difficulty with the Church raising the necessary funds. While a rendering of this new church appeared on an 1855 map entitled “View of Harrisburg Penn” by J.T. Williams, showing a tremendous steeple and spire on the structure, it appeared that this was inspirational in approach because there has been no indication that a spire was ever erected. This Church building was present during the Civil War when the Home for the Friendless was organized in 1866. The church, while nor containing a steeple or spire, was nonetheless an important architectural landmark for the period especially as it was highlighted by a prominent Greek Revival-styled portico with Ionic-capped columns and by a generous collection of stained-glass windows. Well into the 20th Century, the Second and Pine Street location became less convenient for a growing population of Baptist congregates that resulted in the Church moving to the existing Market Street Baptist Church at Fifteenth and Market Streets on Allision Hill. Further, the property at Second and Pine had become more valuable over the years due to the increase in the expansion of the Central Business District. Accordingly, the church building was sold in the early 1970’s and was demolished by 1972 for the erection of a bank building.
Banner image courtesy of Library of Congress.