Foundation on Which to Build a Community
Pennsylvania Avenue Heritage Trail
Churches serve as more than places of worship in Baltimore’s black communities. Led by strong clergy, African American churches have nurtured the soul, fed, clothed, and housed the poor, fought for civil rights, supported business and job placement, and provided a variety of leisure-time activities. Old West Baltimore churches served as models for other communities across the nation by combining financial support, spiritual development, activism and education.
In 1850, Baltimore had the largest denominational variety of African American churches in the country. On the eve of the Civil War, the New York Weekly Anglo-African Newspaper reported that “no city where I have been can boast of better churches among our people. Baltimore churches are not a whit behind, either in beauty or attendance, for our people are a church-going people.” By 1860, the African American community thrived on the foundation of more than 16 churches and missions in Baltimore.
In the 20th century, more than 12 churches resided in Old West Baltimore. These churches helped found and nurture almost every civic institution in the community;
Sharp Street Memorial United Methodist Church (1797-present)
Bethel A.M.E. Church (1816-present)
St. James Episcopal Church (1824-present)
Orchard Street Church (1825-1970)
Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church (1848-present)
Union Baptist Church (1852-present)
St Peter Claver Roman Catholic Church (1873-present)
Macedonia Baptist Church (1874-present)
Sharon Baptist Church (1882-present)
Trinity Baptist Church (1888-present)
Douglas Memorial Church (1925-present)
New Metropolitan Baptist Church
St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church.br>
(Inscriptions on the right)
Bethel AME Church
Bethel AME began in 1787 as a prayer group known as the Colored Methodist Society. In 1816 this group sent delegates to Philadelphia to help establish the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first denomination in the world to form on account of race. The church moved to Druid Hill Avenue and Lanvale Street in 1910. In the 1950’s and ‘60s, clergy from Bethel participated in protests against Jim Crow laws. Reverend Frank Reid II (pastor 1964-68) marched in Alabama with
Union Baptist Church
A meeting place for civil rights activities and the staging place for Baltimore participants in the 1963 March on Washington, Union Baptist Church began in 1852 and moved to Druid Hill Avenue in 1905. Under the leadership of Dr. Harvey Johnson this church helped create the Mutual United Brotherhood of Liberty, cofounded the Niagara Movement and the NAACP Baltimore Branch, and created the Colored Baptist Convention.
Sharp Street Methodist Church
Founded in 1797, this Methodist congregation ran the Sharp Street School and helped found the Centenary Biblical Institute (now Morgan State University). They hosted many civil rights activities, including meetings of the Maryland Branch of the Niagara Movement and of the Citywide Young People’s Forum of Baltimore, which spearheaded anti-lynching and equal employment campaigns. The church moved to Dolphin and Etting streets in 1896.
Trinity Baptist Church
Founded in June 1883 by Reverend Dr. Garnett Russell Weller, Trinity Baptist played an integral role in the Baltimore Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Waller was Maryland’s representative to the Niagara Movement, a national civil rights organization led by
Reverse Side of the Marker
Take a walk through history in storied Old West Baltimore. You’ll relive the glory days of Pennsylvania Avenue and its surrounding neighborhoods. Follow the lives of inspiring people. Tour churches that served as places of empowerment and beacons of enlightenment, and gain new perspective on this African American community’s role in the struggle for civil rights. Explore at your own pace following these story signs to learn about Baltimore African Americans who helped build a city and changed the face of American music, art, literature and politics.
(Inscriptions under the images on the right)
1.Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Maryland
2.The Lillie Carroll Jackson Museum
3.Douglas Memorial Community Church
5.Morriah Keyhole Houses
6.Booker T. Washington Middle School
7.Bethel AME Church
8.Union Baptist Church
9.Sharp Street Methodist Church
10.Henry Highland Garnet School/PS 103
11.The Royal Theatre Marquee Monument
12.Billie Holliday Plaza
13.Macedonia Baptist Church
14.The Comedy Club
15.Trinity Baptist Church
17.Ideal Savings and Loan
20.Romare Bearden Mural.
(Inscriptions under the images)
*Listen, Can you feel it pulsating down the Street of Royalty?
*It’s bee-bop, jazz, comedy—and of course—the blues.
*All the greats were here. Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, Eubie Blake and more!
*Learn about African American politicians and lawyers like William Ashbie Hawkins and George McMechan who fought against an ordinance segregating whites and blacks block by block.
*Visit churches that nurtured the soul, and also fed, clothed and housed the poor.
*Follow Thurgood Marshall from Henry Highland Garnet School/PS 103, to winning landmark Supreme Court cases, to becoming a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
*Learn how Old West Baltimore residents and church leaders played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement and in the Buy Where You Can Work jobs campaign.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans • Churches & Religion • Civil Rights. In addition, it is included in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities series lists. A significant historical month for this entry is June 1883.
Location. 39° 18.053′ N, 76° 37.685′ W. Marker is in Baltimore, Maryland. It is in Upton. Marker is at the intersection of Dolphin Street and Etting Street on Dolphin Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Baltimore MD 21217, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Sharp Street Memorial Church (a few steps from this marker); Union Baptist Church (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Courting Justice (about 400 feet away); Bethel A.M.E. Church (about 400 feet away); Henry Highland Garnett School (about 600 feet away); Rev. Dr. Vernon Nathaniel Dodson Memorial (about 700 feet away); Henry Highland Garnet Park (about 800 feet away); African American Politicians (about 800 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Baltimore.
Regarding Foundation on Which to Build a Community. "McMechan" found, apparently should have been "McMechen".
Credits. This page was last revised on March 17, 2021. It was originally submitted on March 2, 2017, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. This page has been viewed 269 times since then and 39 times this year. Last updated on March 16, 2021, by Carl Gordon Moore Jr. of North East, Maryland. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on March 2, 2017, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.