William J. Pratt
First Baptist Church
212, Bedford Street, Cumberland, Allegany County
The First Baptist Church is a T-shaped gable-front brick structure of 1 1/2 stories. The 1917 east (front) facade is of white glazed all-stretcher brickwork; this also extends back one bay on the north and south facades. The rest of the building, constructed in 1849, is of red brick laid in common bond with random variations; this has been repointed. The original part has two high brick belt courses on each facade and a single low one on the side facades (although the north side is covered by additions). On the east facade only the low belt course exists, where it is executed in stone. The church sits on a low foundation of rock-faced coursed ashlar on the north and south and uncoursed rubble on the west (rear). It has a plain watertable. The gable roof is covered with sheets of asphalt. A replacement box cornice surrounds the 1849 structure. Two interior brick chimneys are located in the west end. One is original with a corbeled cap; the other is a replacement. The principal facade is a three-part composition divided vertically into nave (on the south) and stair tower (on the north). The latter is divided horizontally to separate a basement from the tower above. This distinction is deliberately obscured on the nave by containing the windows of those two floors within one large opening in the wall. The stair tower wall is brought forward on this facade (and also on the north), resulting in three exposed corners on this elevation. Each corner is similarly buttressed on its two sides with a three-part buttress, narrowing and set back from bottom to top. The set backs are at the first floor and choir levels and are marked by stone shoulders or weatherings. The top and bottom segments have inset round-arched panels. The choir level segments are terminated by molded concrete copings. The two buttresses which flank the stair tower have an additional section with an applied pediment and another concrete coping, although these are not set back. The southernmost buttress is shorter than those on the facade. Its terminal coping turns to rake against the south wall of the nave. The top copings of the facade buttresses are continuous with the copings of their respective roofs. The nave portion of the facade, wider than the stair tower, contains between the buttresses a large Gothic tracery window set in a brick arch topped by a stone arch above the springing. The floor of the auditorium (first floor) is marked by a band of three large quatrefoil panels between the upper and lower windows. The wall above the arch is set with nine round-arched panels in a blind arcade which rises directly out of the window arch and follows the raking of the gable. Above this is the coping of the gable which breaks vertically near the point and then squares off to form a blunt peak. The wall of the stair tower is similarly composed above the basement, without the quatrefoil or arched panels. The roof coping forms a simple low gable. The basement contains the main entrance, set in an arch like the window arches, with a blind arcade of five arched panels above.
The significance of the First Baptist Church is derived from the facade that was added in 1917 to the existing church structure erected in 1849. Executed in a modest interpretation of the late Gothic Revival style, the facade embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type of architecture that, while popular in the United States in the first half of the present century, was not commonly used in Cumberland. The dominant features which characterize the church facade are a smooth, quiet perpendicular design executed in masonry. The position of this structure in the architectural fabric of Cumberland is heightened by its location on a hill from which it is visible from various locations in the center of the city.