November 5, 2011

Old Town Friends’ Meeting House

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In 1775, Patapsco Meeting, in what was then Baltimore County recorded that they wished to move their Meeting to Baltimore Town. By 1781, at the cost of $4,500, a new Meetinghouse had been erected at Fayette St. (then Pitt) and Aisquith St. (then Smock Alley). Designed by George Matthews, it has separate men’s and women’s  entrances into a plain and spacious room with a  high vaulted ceiling.  Sliding wood paneling partitioned the room for Men’s and Women’s Business Meetings. It could be raised for Meetings for Worship or larger gatherings.

The Meetinghouse is the oldest surviving house of worship in Baltimore. Among those who worshipped here were Elisha Tyson, Johns Hopkins, Moses Sheppard, Phillip E. Thomas and the Tyson, Ellicott and McKim families.

There soon was a need to provide for the educational needs of the children of Friends. By 1784, Meeting records document the estabilishment of a committee to oversee a school which became what is now Baltimore Friends School.

Baltimore Yearly Meeting was so well attended by the end of the century that a thirty-acre tract of pastureland was purchased to accommodate the annual influx of Friends. By 1817, when the first gas lamp was slit at the corner of Baltimore & Holiday Streets, Baltimore had emerged as a center of trade and industry, and the need for a second Meetinghouse to the west resulted in the construction of Lombard Street Meeting in 1807.

Restoration of this meetinghouse is 1967 cost about $50,000, through the joint efforts of the City of Baltimore and the McKim Community Association, Inc. under the leadership of mayor Theodore McKeldin and Philip Myers. The historic building was them administered and maintain by the Peale Museum, and leased to McKim for it’s programs.

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