St. Paul's Church Rectory

St. Paul's Church Rectory, located a block west of Old St. Paul's Episcopal Church (formerly "Protestant Episcopal") is a historic Episcopal rectory located on steep "Cathedral Hill" at the northeast corner of Cathedral Street (which merges with Liberty Street, which becomes Hopkins Place and Sharp Street further south) and West Saratoga Streets in Baltimore, Maryland, United States. In the rear of the old rectory is a small alley-like extension of West Pleasant Street and to the east behind the Charles Street former residences and now commercial structures is another small alley extension of Little (or North) Sharp Street.

It is located on ground donated by Col. John Eager Howard (1752-1827), commander of the famed "Maryland Line" regiment of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War and was noted at the Battles of Brooklyn in New York, Monmouth in New Jersey, Guilford Courthouse in North Carolina, and the Cowpens in South Carolina and also former Governor of Maryland and U. S. Senator. He owned the large estate of "Belvedere" north of the town which was also known as "Howard's Woods", with his Georgian/Federal mansion located at the modern intersection of East Chase and North Calvert Streets (which was razed 1875, when Calvert Street was extended further north). Many land donations of his went to churches, schools and other public institutions as the town grew north. The land on which the Washington Monument sits with its four surrounding park-like squares which added so much character to the neighborhood and made Baltimore famous, came from his generousity. Plus after his death, his family descendents bought many townhouses and mansions on the newly platted grid of streets in the coming Victorian era and grew richer and more prosperous on the development rights in what became known as the Mount Vernon-Belvedere neighborhood.

Surrounded by a tall stone retaining wall around the remnants of the hill-top estate in the northwest which dominated the new small town as there were no houses between it and Long Street, (later Market Street - now West Baltimore Street). It is a three-story Late Georgian / Federal style brick building constructed between 1789 and 1791. The front facade features a bull’s-eye window in the peak of a dentiled pediment. A two-story extension was added to the west end of the Rectory in the mid-1830s. Leter known as the "Parsonage on the Hill", it is one of the oldest existing houses in the city with verifiable date of construction.

The original first church building had begun construction on Lot #19 of the "Original Survey of 1730" at Forest (now North Charles) Street and newly-named Saratoga Street (after the turning-point victory of the Colonials at the Battle of Saratoga in upper New York State in 1777) . The lot extended as far south as New Church Street (modern East Lexington Street) and east to what was then called St. Paul's Lane, soon after the town was established in 1729 and the parish was moved from near Colgate Creek (now the site of the Dundalk Marine Terminal of the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore) on the Patapsco Neck peninsula of southeastern Baltimore County and was completed nine years later as the first brick building in Baltimore Town. On the cliffs facing what was called Saint Paul's Lane overlooking the southwestward loop of the Jones Falls which veered towards the new courthouse on the Courthouse Square (now the location of the Battle Monument of 1815-27) in the present vicinity of North Calvert Street and East Lexington Streets.

After only seven years since the completion of the four-year construction project of the parish's second brick building in front of the older one of 1739 and which had been dedicated by the rector, Dr. West on Whitsuntide/Pentecost, May 30, 1784, surrounded by the cemetery on the slopes above the Falls. The former structure's wooden bell steeple was erected in the center of the churchyard after it was torn down in November 1786. An illustration drawing/painting of the scene in the late 18th Century, is exhibited on the Baltimore City National Heritage Area historical exhibition pylon across the street from the present church at Charles Plaza of the Charles Center downtown redevelopment project of the 1960s.

Situated a block to the west, the House was originally built for the Rev. Dr. William West, rector of the church since June 7, 1779, and a friend and former neighbor of George Washington, but was completed after his death, March 30, 1791 and he never occupied it. After a lottery was held beginning in April 1788, "for the purpose of building a parsonage for the minister of the Protestant Episcopal congregation in Baltimore Town", 3,000 tickets were sold at $2.00 each, with prizes of $4,000 total, leaving $2,000 for the construction of the house. The managers of the lottery were: John Moale, John Merryman, Andrew T. Ennals, John Eager Howard, John Weatherburn, John Hammond, George Grundy, Dr. Darling, James Calhoun, Englehard Yeider, George P. Keeports, William Gibson, William McCreery, Thomas Hollingsworth, and Andrew Buchanan - all prominent citizens in the early years of the burgeoning town.

Previous to the construction of the Saratoga Street mansion, Dr. West resided in a parsonage located one block south of the church at the northwest corner of Forest (Charles) and New Church Street (later renamed West Lexington Street after the Revolution - future site of the early "skyscraper" of gray granite, Fidelity and Deposit Trust Company building of 1894, founded 1890 by future Gov.Edwin Warfield). Rev. Dr. West's home was one-story frame house with a "hip-roof" painted red and had a yard in front ornamented with trees and shrubbery, on the hilly edge of the settlement.

Used as a family residence by all of the rectors of Old St. Paul's since the summer of 1791 starting with West's successor minister, the Rev. Dr. Joseph J. G. Bend (who died November 1812) until the last occupant, The Rev. Fr. William McKeachie of England and his family in the early 1990s, when after some minor renovations and additional commercial re-wiring, it is now used by the Preservation Maryland, Inc. historical organization.

To the northwest of the Rectory at 309 Cathedral Street which is on the southeast corner with West Pleasant Street alley is "Saint Paul's House" which was built in the 1880s following the connection of Cathedral Street to the north with Liberty/Hopkins Place/South Sharp Streets to the south. This was enabled by the unfortunate, but necessary razing in 1883 to the west of the magnificent Greek Revival 1820's-era townhouse/mansion of A.S. Abell, founder and beginning of the Abell-Black family dynasty which owned and published The Baltimore Sun since 1837, one of the city's largest newspapers and influential from its early years in the nation.

To the east on Saratoga was the 1830s-era city townhouse of local merchant and financier Johns Hopkins (1792-1873) who died in the house by Little Sharp Street. It complemented his country estate in the northeast city of "Clifton" (which is still standing and located in middle of Clifton Park) which was to be the original site of the university that he provided for in his will. But it instead was temporarily located by his tructees along North Howard and West Centre Streets for fifty years. After being razed, unfortunately it was replaced by a very ugly, two-level, crumbling concrete parking garage in the 1950s, which is still an eyesore to the neighborhood.

It was the previous site in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries of "the Roman Catholic Congregation of Baltimore Town", founded 1770 and incorporated 1795 as St. Peter's Church and the first organized group of Catholics in the city. After the 1789 appointment of Father John Carroll as the first Roman Catholic bishop in America, and his subsequent return home after his ordination in England, he was installed in August 1790 in the now "St. Peter's Pro-Cathedral" as "the ordinary" (bishop) of what became known as "The Premier See", the Diocese of Baltimore. Later that year, St. Peter's Pro-Cathedral saw the meeting of the first synod of priests of the new national American diocese (along with Bardstown, Kentucky) and opening ceremonies for the newly-established St. Mary's Seminary further to the northwest and the establishment later of its adjoining St. Mary's College. After the construction of Benjamin Henry Latrobe's "Old Baltimore Cathedral" (later the Basilica of the Assumption of Mary), constructed one block further north at Cathedral Street, between West Mulberry and Franklin Streets during 1806-1821; old, but important and historic St. Peter's Pro-Cathedral was unfortunately razed in 1841 along with its adjoining red-brick rectory, school and cemetery along West Saratoga and North Charles Streets, on the opposite corner of the third (1814/17-1854) of the four buildings of Old St. Paul's Parish.

"St. Paul's House" on adjacent Cathedral Street, was used for parish offices of the congregation and as a parish/social hall and after some commercial renovations in the mid-1990s, was additionally rented and sub-let to several religious and charitable organizations and a private attorney.

In the rear of the Rectory, to the north across the Pleasant Street alley is the unassuming backs of the fancy townhouses fronting along West Mulberry Street. In a back parlor, (facing the rear porches and yard of the Church's house) imbibing brandy and fine cigars, a group of three literate men in October, 1833 perused several manuscripts and decided on one that showed great mysterious promise. After that evening at civic leader John H. B. Latrobe's house (son of the famed architect Benjamin), joined by John Pendleton Kennedy and another, they agreed on "MS Found In A Bottle" to be published in the journal "Baltimore Sunday Visitor" launching the career of the mercurial Edgar Allan Poe.

Built in 1891-92, across Cathedral Street to the west from the historic Georgian/Federal House, the Odd Fellows order constructed a large five-story hall of red brick which was lovingly renovated preserving its historic features in the early 1980s and several offices were installed within. To its north, up the street sat the former boys high school in gray granite stone, run by the Christian Brothers as Calvert Hall College- founded 1845 and located here on the southwestern corner of Cathedral and West Mulberry Street from 1890 to 1960, when it was replaced by the white starkly modern Archdiocesan Building offices for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore since 1963.

Across the street from the Rectory for over seventy years was the famous "Rennert Hotel" on the southeastern corner of Saratoga with Cethedral-Liberty Streets. A massive triangular pile of bricks with turrets and flourishes, the Rennert was constructed in the 1870s and became the premier "hang-out" spot for local machine politicians. It was the site of a famous joyous celebration and photograph surrounding famed Baltimore writer/editor/columnist/author/linguist H. L. Mencken as he took the first drink in Baltimore of legalized beer after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. The crusty old warren of a hostellery was torn down in 1941, and despite many re-development attempts, nothing has ever re-surfaced from its site as a parking lot for another seventy years. The Rectory however sits on the northern edge of the Charles Center project overlooking most of the starkly modernistic skyscrapers of the 1960s and 70s and its plazas, along with the former Baltimore Civic Center (now the 1st Mariner Arena). Before all the demolition began, West Lexington Street, one block south was the scene of Baltimore's tightly-compacted, earlier 20th Century entertainment district with over a dozen elaborate movie theatres and palaces stretched on the several blocks.

St. Paul's Church Rectory was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 20, 1973, which is maintained by the U.S. Department of the Interior's National Park Service according to the Congressional "Historic Sites Act" of August 21, 1935. It is included within the Cathedral Hill Historic District which is in the southern part of the Mount Vernon-Belvedere neighborhood, north of downtown Baltimore, and the Baltimore National Heritage Area which is maintained by several private and governmental entities: the Baltimore City Heritage Area Association, Inc. (organized 2005), a local community-benefits district agency, the Baltimore City Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, Baltimore Heritage, Inc., Preservation Maryland, Inc. (which coincidentally has had its offices in the Rectory for the last decade), the Baltimore City Historical Society (founded 1998), and the Maryland Historical Society (founded 1844).

It is one of the oldest, continuously occupied, residential houses in the city and is a landmark with two additional large dominating mature trees with greenery spread before it over the stone wall in the middle of the urban gritty city.

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    The Church seems to totter to its fall, almost all life extinct. On this occasion, any complaisance would be criminal which told you, whose hope and commission it is to preach the faith of Christ, that the faith of Christ is preached.
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