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Antebellum Architecture
Richmond's African American Heritage
The Continuing legacy of Historic Preservation
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Old First Baptist Church

Old First Baptist Church

Old First Baptist Church
Virginia Deparment of Historic Resources


Famed architect Thomas U. Walter of Philadelphia provided the restrained but authoritative Greek Revival design for the Old First Baptist Church. Walter, best known as architect for the dome of the U.S. Capitol, designed some 10 buildings for Virginia. Old First Baptist is his only remaining Richmond work. Construction began in 1839, and two years later, the congregation moved in. Walter’s design, dominated by a Doric portico in muris, had a strong influence on the city’s ecclesiastical architecture. At least four Baptist churches were modeled directly after it, including the old First African Baptist church just two blocks away.

During the Civil War, the church was used as an emergency hospital for Confederate wounded. The congregation sold the building to the Medical College of Virginia in 1928. The Baptists subsequently built a large new church on Monument Avenue and gave it a Greek Doric portico modeled on that of the parent church. Threatened with demolition on in the 1970s, Old First Baptist has since been sympathetically renovated by Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine to serve as a student study center. The sanctuary is largely intact and preserves its original three-sided gallery. A handsome plaster ceiling medallion accents the space. Despite the surrounding tall buildings of the medical school complex, the building maintains a strong architectural presence on Broad Street.

Plan your visit

Old First Baptist Church is located on the corner of E. Broad and 12th Sts. one block from Capitol Square. Although its primary importance is its exterior, the interior can be visited by inquiring within.

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