Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church is a prime example of Victorian Gothic architecture. Conceived of as a "Cathedral of Methodism," the building was designed by Thomas Dixon and Charles L. Carson and completed on November 12, 1872 in what was then the outskirts of the city.
The church sits on the site of the mansion of Charles Howard, who was married to Elizabeth Phoebe Key. Her father, Francis Scott Key, the author of The Star Spangled Banner, died here in his daughter's home. A plaque observing his death adorns the southern outside church wall, marking the church as a highlighted location on the National Historic Register. The cost of this grand structure, including land, building, and furnishings was $400,000 in 1872 (in today's dollars it is ~$7,000,000).
The building is made six of different types of stone. Its extraordinary color (especially when wet) comes from the use of the now rare green serpentine metabasalt from the Falls Road area of Baltimore County, and buff and red sandstone trim. Because neither stone wears well, major repairs and replacements of individual pieces with more stable materials were necessary in 1932 and again in 1978.
The central theme of the building is the glory of God's creation. Nature themes predominate the stained glass and carvings. The pews, made of American walnut, were hand-carved by one gentleman. The work took seven years to complete. Up behind the pulpit is a stained glass Connick cross, a sister to the rose window in the rear of the church that is modeled after the one in Notre Dame. The sanctuary seats 900 people.
OOPS -- we found a mistake that, over time, has become a part of our narrative in the number of pipes for our organ. In cleaning her office, Sandra, our Secretary, found original documents for the organ. It would seem that we have 3,927, not the 3,827 we thought.
In 1870, the trustees of the new Mount Vernon Methodist Episcopal Church contracted with Mr. A. Pomplitz for an organ for their new church. This magnificent machine, which used water power to "raise the wind," was the fourth largest instrument of its kind in the United States. Today, the church is home to a state-of-the-art M.P. Moller Organ, which has a total of 3,927 pipes
Complementing the magnificent sanctuary is the small and intimate Bosley Chapel behind the altar. The chapel is named in memory of Sidney Bosley, the son of a minister who was killed by a train as a young boy. The Connick stained glass windows depict the 12 year old David and Jesus.
Next to the church at 10 East Mount Vernon Place is Asbury House, an Italianate Renaissance design of J.R. Niernsee and J.C. Neilson, circa 1855, which is now used by the church for offices and the parish house. The mansion is named for Francis Asbury (1745-1816), the first bishop of the Methodist Church in America. Asbury's burial plate is located in the church's narthex, and each week the gospel lesson is read from the pulpit that Asbury used when he preached in Baltimore.
Over the years, the church has served as the social and spiritual anchor to the Mount Vernon community and it continues in this role through our diverse and active congregation. Today, with the tireless work of community leaders and institutions, the Square and its environs are undergoing a wonderful renaissance. The church is deeply committed to helping Baltimore and Mount Vernon recapture the splendor of the 1872 community while also moving toward the future as a presence which shapes and enriches the lives of our diverse neighbors.
Did you know. . .
In the original design of the church, the steeple was taller than the Washington Monument? City officials made the architect change the plans as they didn't want anything taller than George Washington.
During World Wars I & II, servicemen temporarily stationed in Baltimore found a home away from home at Mt. Vernon Place Church. They were offered shelter, a bed and a meal, and on Saturday nights, a place to dance the night away. In the first year of operating the Servicemen’s Center, the church hosted 4,300 servicemen. A second-floor dormitory held 75 beds. When the beds filled up, others slept on sofas in the social rooms and in the pews. On Sunday mornings, the ladies of the congregation served a hot breakfast and servicemen were invited to attend the morning worship service.
We have Bishop Asbury's pulpit and grave stone (although he's not buried here).