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The main sanctuary, a landmark to many of Charlotte-Mecklenburg citizens, fronts on N. Tryon St. and is located next to the library. Constructed between August 1907 and May 1909, the building is an eclectic combination of Romanesque, Gothic, and Byzantine Revival. The green dome adds individualization to the growing skyline of glass and steel.

Architect James Mackson McMichael would be pleased with what has happened to his masterpiece. A native of Harrisburg, Pa., McMichael moved to Charlotte soon after 1900, joined First Baptist Church, and convinced the minister, the balding H. H. Hulten, that the congregation should break with local tradition and construct a church that had no steeple. "McMichael wasn't afraid of anything," says Andrew Steever, who worked with New York designers Hardy, Holzman and Pfeiffer in bringing the building back to life in the late 1970's.


  • Having trouble identifying brick patterns, shingle patterns, or other parts? See the Illustrated Guidebook for help!
  • Some of the most important features of the building are:
    1. The magnificent stained glass windows, which is an art in itself.
    2. The large carved oak doors (the style of woodwork is carefully carried through the interior stairways and vestibule as well as the sanctuary).
    3. Portion of the imposing dome on the exterior.
    4. The large sanctuary with a full surrounding balcony.
  • Dome shape is repeated in several parts of the building - above the front doors, above windows, small domes on the sides, dome-shaped window above doors (each having two domes).
  • There is a classical influence- Doric order triglyphs and metopes in the frieze and Doric columns are featured on the facade.
  • The library next door repeats some of the colors and patterns of the First Baptist Church. The library, though, is based on the square, with no dome.


    At the site...

  • Sketch the main dome. Be sure to label the ribs.
  • Sketch the frieze. Label the triglyphs and metopes.
  • Sketch a column. Label the parts of the column.

    On your own...

  • The picture below shows the First Baptist Church's first next door neighbor, the old library (The Carnegie Library - first photo below). The library was replaced in the 1950s with a newer one, also pictured (second photo).

    The Carnegie Library

    The newer library

    That one was significantly remodeled in the 1980s to create the library you see today. What do you notice about how the old Carnegie Library and the 1950s library and how they relate to the church?

  • Do you think the 1950s library was remodeled (in the 1980s) to respect its next door neighbor, the old First Baptist Church? Give some details to support your answer. You can compare what you see in the two photos above with what you see today to help you with your answer.
  • Byzantine Architecture is not often used as a source of inspirationin the United States. Some of the characteristics typical of Byzantine Architecture and seen on the First Baptist Church are evident on the Hagia Sophia, the largest and most famous Byzantine building (in Istanbul, Turkey). Use the photo below to determine what features of the Hagia Sophia you can see on the First Baptist Church.

    Hagia Sophia