Slide 1

First Baptist Church

First Baptist Church

(Demolished in 1972)

first baptist church 1910

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’s first building was on Front Street between Walnut and Locust Streets until 1858 when the much larger church was erected on the northeast corner of N. Second and Pine Streets. Highlighted by a Greek Revival-styled portico and originally planned but never built steeple, this building was present during the Civil War.

The ladies appointed by the First Baptist Church to the original Home for the Friendless Board of Managers in 1866 were Mrs. Eliza Cunkle and Mrs. Christian Frazer.

Further Historical Retrospection

First Baptist founders first met in the Unitarian Church on Locust Street 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 erected a building on Front Street between Walnut and Pine Streets. This was 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 not completed until 1865.

First Baptist Church

Library of Congress, c. 1855

A rendering of this new church appeared on an 1855 map entitled “View of Harrisburg Penn” by J.T. Williams, showed a tremendous steeple and spire on the structure. It appeared this was inspirational in approach because there has been no indication that a spire was ever erected.

While not containing a steeple or spire, the church 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 a generous collection of stained-glass windows.

In the latter part of the 20th Century, the Second and Pine Street location became less convenient for a growing population of Baptist congregates. This resulted in the Church moving to the existing Market Street Baptist Church at Fifteenth and Market Streets on Allison Hill. Further, the property at Second and Pine had become more valuable over the years because of 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.