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First Baptist Church
Photograph by Kathleen McKenney, courtesy of the City of Cumberland

First Baptist Church, 1977
NPS Photograph

The First Baptist Church is an unusual example of late Gothic Revival architecture in Cumberland. The church has served the city's Baptist community for a century and a half. The first Baptist congregation in Cumberland was a small group formed in the early 1840s. Without a church, this group met in a hall above a fire station. Missionary Benjamin Giffith was the first Baptist Reverend to arrive in Cumberland. By 1849 his congregation was large enough to afford the construction of a church. When complete, the large brick First Baptist Church had a capacity that was much larger than the congregation. Characteristic of Baptist and Methodist churches of the second half of the 19th century, the nave of First Baptist is on the second floor.

The large church was temporarily used as a Civil War hospital, as were many buildings in Cumberland. In December of 1861 Cumberland held 500 hospitalized soldiers, and 1,200 by the spring on 1862. After the Civil War, the congregation of First Baptist dissolved for a short period. After 1871 the congregation was active again, and in 1917 a modern Gothic Revival facade was added, using white glazed brick in contrast to the original red brick. Built at a cost of $15,000, the front facade remains the dominant architectural feature of the church. Its asymmetrical design is accented by molded buttresses and large arched tracery windows, the largest in the Cumberland area. Located on a hill visible from many points in the city, the First Baptist Church continues to be a focal point of the community.

The First Baptist Church is located at 212 Bedford St. The church is open for religious services Wednesdays at 7:00pm, Sundays at 11:00am and 6:00pm, and Sunday school at 9:45am.

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