First Baptist Church (Boston, Massachusetts)
First Baptist Church
|Architect||Henry Hobson Richardson; Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi|
|Architectural style||Richardsonian Romanesque|
|Part of||Back Bay Historic District (#73001948)|
|NRHP Reference #||72000146|
|Added to NRHP||February 23, 1972|
|Designated CP||August 14, 1973|
The First Baptist Church (or "Brattle Square Church") is a historic Baptist congregation, established in 1665. It is one of the oldest Baptist churches in the United States. It first met secretly on Noddle's Island and then in the North End of Boston, Massachusetts. Since 1882 it has been located at the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Clarendon Street in the Back Bay.
The congregation was founded in 1665 despite a Massachusetts law prohibiting opposition to infant baptism. Many of the early members of the church were persecuted and imprisoned by the state church for heresy, including the first pastor, Thomas Gould. Shortly before the founding of the church, the first Harvard College president, Henry Dunster, was forced to resign his position for refusing to baptize his infant. Dunster had been theologically influenced by Dr. John Clarke and other Rhode Island Baptists persecuted in Massachusetts. During King Philip's War, John Myles pastored the church while on hiatus from the First Baptist Church in Swansea, which was the first church in the state. "In 1679, the Boston Baptists built a meetinghouse in the North End of Boston, at the corner of Salem and Stillman Streets. ...In the early 1700s, the small building was replaced by a larger wooden one on the same site. Here the Church flourished, for 43 years (1764–1807) under the leadership of Samuel Stillman."
In 1837 the First Baptist congregation moved into a new brick church building (fourth meeting house) on the corner of Hanover Street and Union Street. Preachers included Rollin Heber Neale. The congregation remained at this location until 1882.
The current church building (fifth meeting house) was constructed in 1872 to a design by Henry Hobson Richardson. It opened in 1875 to serve the Unitarian congregation of the Brattle Street Church, also known as the Church in Brattle Square, which had been demolished in 1872. The Unitarian congregation dissolved in 1876 soon after moving to this building. The First Baptist congregation bought the building in 1882. Featuring ivy-covered walls and a prominent tower with distinctive carvings by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi (sculptor of the Statue of Liberty) representing four sacraments, with faces of famous Bostonians (including Longfellow and Hawthorne), Abraham Lincoln, and Bartholdi's friends of that era, (including 'Garabaldi'). This building highlights many of the Richardsonian Romanesque qualities that would later be shown in the nearby Trinity Church, one of Richardson's masterpieces. The Baptist Church's tower can clearly be seen as part of Boston's skyline when viewed from the Cambridge side of the Charles river. This church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. The congregation is currently affiliated with the American Baptist Churches USA.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15.
- "Boston Pulpit". Gleasons Pictorial (Boston, Mass.) 5. 1853.
- Boston Directory. 1850
- Detwiller, Frederic C. (Winter–Spring 1979). "Thomas Dawes's Church in Brattle Square". Old-Time New England (Boston: Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities) 69 (255).
- "Church in Brattle Square (Boston, Mass.) Records (bMS 1): Register". Harvard University Library. 1969. Retrieved 2009-10-18.
- Rollin Heber Neale. An address delivered on the two hundredth anniversary of the organization of the First Baptist church, Boston, June 7, 1865. Gould and Lincoln, 1865.
- Nathan Eusebius Wood. The history of the First Baptist Church of Boston (1665–1899). American Baptist Publication Society, 1899.
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