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Lovely Lane Methodist Church
The tall, rusticated, granite bell tower of Lovely Lane Methodist Church creates a striking appearance along the streetscape of Saint Paul Street in Baltimore. Stanford White modeled this part of his Romanesque Revival tour-de-force after the campanile of the twelfth-century church of Santa Maria, Abbey of Romposa, near Ravenna, Italy. The square tower narrows gradually for nine levels and is topped by corner pinnacles and a tall, red tile conical roof. White’s design for the rest of the church is no less impressive. Lovely Lane Methodist Church reflects White’s training in the distinguished firm of H. H. Richardson as well as the younger architect’s own highly original interpretation of Romanesque architecture.
Built between 1884 and 1887 as First Methodist Episcopal Church, Lovely Lane Methodist Church is considered the “mother church” of American Methodism. As such it can be viewed as a response to the nearby Roman Catholic cathedral by Benjamin Henry Latrobe. An early Methodist meeting house in the vicinity was called Lovely Lane and inspired the new name for First Methodist in 1954.
The church’s Romanesque design is largely unornamented on the exterior, with a lively facade created by the use of rusticated blocks of gray Port Deposit granite. In addition to the massive corner tower, deep porches with round arch arcades and a varied roofline add to its dynamic and massive appearance. The complex assortment of roof forms is sheathed with red Spanish tile and the clerestory and side of the nave have leaded glass windows. Curved walls at the east and west of the large center block correspond to the elliptical sanctuary inside. Leland Roth speculates that this feature is attributed to Pastor John F. Goucher and the congregation’s emphasis on choral music. This space is also surrounded by a gallery. The shallow elliptical dome over the sanctuary is decorated with the night sky executed blue and gold. The pulpit is a reproduction of the one at St. Apollinaris in Ravenna. Stained glass windows and decorative cornice and frieze add to the ornamentation of the space. The sanctuary had an innovative forced ventilation system which may have been a direct precursor to those included in White’s original Madison Square Garden in New York City. Smaller spaces to the sides and rear accommodated a chapel, offices, and classrooms.
Lovely Lane Methodist Church was intended to serve as part of an adjacent complex of buildings for a women’s college conceived by Goucher and designed by White. Only two of White’s buildings for Goucher College were constructed (a gymnasium and classroom hall), both with similar rusticated masonry.
Hayward, Mary Ellen, and Frank R. Shivers, Jr., eds. The Architecture of Baltimore: An Illustrated History. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.
Maclay, Joyce, and Catherine Black. “Lovely Lane Methodist Church,” Baltimore City, Maryland. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, 1972. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC.
Roth, Leland. McKim, Mead & White Architects. New York: Harper & Row, 1983.
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