Well into the first decade of the twentieth century, the Romanesque Revival style remained popular with religious congregations because of the immense scale and metaphorical strength of its components. When First Baptist was built, Bute Street's urban character rendered all but the main facade of granite invisible to passersby. Large-scale urban renewal has left the church isolated, exposing its side and rear walls of brick. The church's overall massing is essentially square, but on the main facade its potentially boxy proportions are relieved by boldly projecting, asymmetrical towers. The turreted southeast tower is the facade's focal
Earlier Hunt had designed Baptist churches in Portsmouth and Newport News, and his selection as architect for the building was undoubtedly intended to reinforce the First Baptist Church's preeminent position among Norfolk's Baptist congregations at the turn of the twentieth century. In 1800, Norfolk Baptists had formed their own congregation and subsequently split and moved several times, finally arriving on Bute Street. The congregation was primarily African American, and the grandeur of First Baptist Church set a new standard for ecclesiastical design in the city and symbolized the prosperity of the congregation. An ambitious, block-long expansion of the church's community outreach facilities, designed by WTG Design Consultants, is planned.