BNHA First Unitarian Church of Baltimore


Baltimore City Landmark

National Historic Landmark

National Register of Historic Places

Interpretive Framework

Gaining Freedom for All: African American Heritage and the Struggle for Equality

Shaping a Monumental City: The City’s Growth in the 20th Century

Star Attractions

Charles Street Byway

Cultural Walk

Resource Type

Points of Interest

201 W Baltimore St

Baltimore, Maryland 21201

This simple but impressive building—designed by Maximilian Godefroy, designer of Baltimore’s Battle Monument—was built in 1818. It is the oldest building to be continually used as a Unitarian church in North America. The church was originally called “The First Independent Church of Baltimore” by its members, who were mainly free thinkers and independent spirits who were very diverse in their religious beliefs. Just a year after moving into this new structure, Rev. Dr. William Ellery Channing delivered a landmark sermon, now known as the “Baltimore Sermon.” In it, Channing defined the essence of Unitarianism in the United States, which led to the formation of the denomination in 1824. Godefroy’s building design was considered daring at the time. It uses the basic shapes of the cube and the sphere, with a minimum of detail on the flat planes to emphasize the structure’s geometry. Because the acoustics under the dome were poor, a coffered barrel vault was later added to close off the dome. Distinguished Baltimoreans who have been members of this congregation include artist Rembrandt Peale, George Peabody, Enoch Pratt, and Mary Richmond, a pioneer in the field of professional social work and philanthropy.