Monday, August 9, 2010

Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church

Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church
In Saturday's post about the architecture of Mount Vernon Place, I briefly mentioned the Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church which sits just northeast of the Washington Monument at 2-10 East Mount Vernon Place. The church is a prime example of Norman-Gothic style architecture and is only one of three Gothic buildings in all of Baltimore.  Alas, I still need to figure out where the other two are!

Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church
The church was built on the outskirts of the city on land that originally was the site of the mansion of Charles Howard, son of Colonel John Eager Howard, who had erected the first residence on the square circa 1830. Charles Howard married Elizabeth Phoebe Kay whose father was Francis Scott Key - author of our national anthem "The Star-Spangled Banner". On January 11th, 1843, while visiting his daughter at her house, her father died of pleurisy and was later interred in the Howard family vault (though his body has since been moved to his family plot in Frederick, Maryland) . The Baltimore Chpater of the Daughters of the American Revolution, afixed a plaque observing Francis Scott Key's death on the southern outside church wall, marking the church as a highlighted location on the National Historic Register which it was added to in October of 1971.

Plaque outside of the Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church
Conceived as a "Cathedral of Methodism", the church was constructed between 1870 and 1872 with completion on November 12th of that year.  The cost of the structure including the land, building, and furnishings was $400,000 - not a small sum back in post-Civil War times.  The church has three spires with the tallest being on the southwest corner.  At the time of construction, it was stipulated that the tallest spire had to be shorter than the 178-foot height of the Washington Monument that the church sits kitty-corner from.

Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church
The building was constructed of six of different types of stone including now rare green serpentine marble from Baltimore County and buff and red sandstone trim. Its extraordinary color comes from the green serpentine marble which is reportedly quite exceptional when it gets wet. Not having any rain while we were in Baltimore I didn't get to see that but I did see the church in both the broad light of noon and again in the fading twilight of evening and it looked spectacular both times.

Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church
Unfortunately, neither the buff or red sandstone wears well so major repairs and replacements of individual pieces were made in 1932 and again in 1978 but I think that simply adds to the unique character and grandeur of the building.

Doors of the Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church

Asbury HouseAs I was walking around outside taking pictures of the impressive structure, a gentleman sitting on the side steps told me that if I went into the church offices next door that I would be able to tour the inside of the church which I decided sounded like a grand idea!  I went next door to what is known as the Asbury House which is designed in the Italianate Renaissance style and was built in 1950 for one of Baltimore's leading German merchants, Albert Schumacher.

Asbury House is one of the few early-Victorian era homes left in Baltimore that hasn't been broken up into apartments and was purchased by the church in 1957 to be used as offices and meeting space. The mansion is named for Francis Asbury (1745-1816) who was the first bishop of the Methodist Church in America. The house has a gorgeous spiral staircase that leads up to an equally gorgeous library on the second floor of the house which has very elaborate carvings as well as a ceiling painting that is a replica of Guido Remi's "Aurora". Even though I went up there I didn't take any pictures though in retrospect, I can't figure out why not!  "Duh" moment, I guess!

Interior of the Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church
My guide led me into the interior of the church and graciously turned on the lights for me so that I could take some pictures of the beautiful worship space which contained many beautiful stained glass windows including a Connick cross above the pulpit which replicates a sister cross at Notre Dame.

Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church
In 1870 the trustees purchased an organ for their new church that used water power to "raise the wind" and was the fourth largest of its kind in the United States. Since then it has been replaced with a state-of-the-art M.P. Moller organ which has a total of 3,827 pipes. Can you imagine being able to play something like that or how gorgeous it must sound?

Pipe Organ at the Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church

Interior of the Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church
The sanctuary sits 900 people though my guide told me that the average Sunday service nowadays is about 90 parishioners. She said that part of the problem is that there is very limited parking in the area which makes it difficult for the congregates. The American walnut pews were all hand-carved by just one gentleman - work that took him seven years to complete but was obviously lovingly done.

As you can see, there are large hand fans located in the pews which are for the comfort of parishioners on hot summer Sundays.  While I was there it was a bit stuffy inside the church and even though I didn't look around to be certain, I'm going to guess that there is no air-conditioning in the building - which would make complete and total sense as obviously it was unheard of at the time of its construction.  I'm pretty sure that buildings on the National Historic Register have to stay as original as possible also so I rather doubt anyone would have tried to put air-conditioning in.

Interior of the Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church
Behind the sanctuary itself is located the much smaller and intimate Bosley Chapel which was named in memory young Sidney Bosley, the son of a former pastor of the church, who died in a tragic train accident at the age of 12. Accordingly, the stained glass windows depict the 12-year old David and Jesus.

Windows of Bosley Chapel
The church worker who gave me my tour told me that the church is also home to Carpenter's Kitchen which provides meals for approximately 400 hungry people every single Saturday regardless of the weather or if it's a holiday.  Having been approached by quite a few people for hand-outs while I was in the area, I can see where that's a program that must be very well appreciated in Baltimore and I was more than happy to leave a small contribution in thanks for my chance to view the beautiful sanctuary of the Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church.

Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church

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