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First Baptist Church

North Tryon St


Thank goodness Charlotte saved the Old First Baptist Church from the wrecking ball. Imagine what North Tryon St. would be like without it. "There's no guarantee that they wouldn't tear it down at some point in the future and build a skyscraper," said Liz Hair, Chairman of the County Commissioners in 1975. She led the effort to persuade her colleagues to vote on April 9, 1975, to buy the endangered landmark and make it part of Spirit Square.

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.

1400 people packed the sanctuary for the dedication service on May 2, 1909. At the organ Mrs. Alexander Stephens led the throng in singing the hymn, All Hail The Power Of Jesus Name, which swept the "assembled multitudes into the heights of expressive song." The offertory anthem, sung by Miss Minnie Wreston Smith, was Mendelssohn's Lift Thine Eyes. The preacher was Dr. E. Y. Mullins, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He took his text from the 16th Psalm: "I have a goodly heritage."

"It is a matter of pride both with the Baptists and all their friends that their architect is a local man," said the Charlotte News. The Charlotte Evening Chronicle was just as enthusiastic. "The First Baptist Church is so striking in its unusual elegance that it will always be viewed with interest by strangers and passers-by," the newspaper proclaimed. The Charlotte News went so far as to declare that the "useless and costly steeple is beginning to be a thing of the past." Go inside the magnificent sanctuary. Pretend that Mrs. Stephens is still at the organ.

For more information...

Survey & Research Report: First Baptist Church