BNHA Small Capital Grantee Highlight: Orchard Street Church

Content about Small Capital Grantee Highlight: Orchard Street Church

Orchard Street Church main sanctuary.

Residing in the Seton Hill neighborhood is one of the oldest standing structures built by African Americans in Baltimore: Orchard Street Church. Built in 1837, the original church was founded by Truman Pratt who purchased his freedom after being born into slavery. The church was well-known for its abolitionist efforts, community legacy, and highly respected congregants including a founder of Morgan State University, Samuel Green; Baltimore’s first black city councilman, Harry S. Cummings; and suffrage leader Eliza Jane Cummings.

The congregation relocated in 1972 causing the church to sit vacant for nearly two decades. During that time, the building endured a massive fire, vandalism, and the threat of demolition. Committed to the history of the church, the Greater Baltimore Urban League (GBUL) successfully mobilized support from preservationists and stakeholders from the city and state to raise funding to reopen the church as the GBUL headquarters.

“Orchard Street Church's community-minded legacy still lives on—we are serving the community through youth and entrepreneur programs, public health fairs, food banks, and workforce development,” says Estelle Young, GBUL’s Director of New Initiatives. "At the same time, major support for the building’s maintenance is still crucial. The Baltimore National Heritage Area and their Small Capital Grant program has been one of our most invaluable resources as we work towards acquiring the necessary capital dollars for the building.”

Since 1992, several of the church’s windows have slowly deteriorated. After assessing the first floor and basement windows, GBUL identified a collection of windows with rotting window sashes, ill-fitting frames with gaps to the outside, and broken panes. In late 2017, GBUL applied for and was awarded a Small Capital Grant in the amount of $15,000 to support window repairs. To date, over $29,000 in BNHA Small Capital Grant funding has been awarded to support the restoration of the historic Orchard Street Church.

The next grant cycle for BNHA’s Small Capital Grants program will open on September 6, 2019. Visit our grants page for more information on all our grant programs.