St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church
901, Eager St., E. & Valley St., Baltimore, Baltimore City
Saint John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, now known as the New Central Social Hall, is an 1855-1856 Italianate-influenced masonry structure that is constructed of stuccoed brick walls resting on a rubble stone foundation and has twin square towers flanking the main façade and a semi-octagonal apse flanked by one-story pavilions extending from the back. The main façade or north elevation is a five-part ensemble that expresses the spatial components of the interior. The nave and clerestory extend forward into a large two-story central volume; the aisles are represented by two one-story minor volumes that stand slightly set back on either side; the two towers stand extended fully from the sides of the building, set back about two feet from the aisle façades. The towers rise to a level just higher than that of the nave roof peak; small, steep pyramidal roofs cap the towers. There are three portal arches in the center section of the main façade, several steps above the sidewalk. The doors are set deep in the arches, making the arches tunnel-like. The steps continue into the arches, further emphasizing their depth. The upper story has three tall round-topped windows with a bulls-eye in a tympanum above the center window. In adapting the building to its new purpose, most of the interior decorative artwork and accessories associated with church use were removed. The basic structural elements and spatial organization remain intact and unaltered.
Saint John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, now known as the New Central Social Hall, achieves significance from its architectural character. As a church executed in a richly ornamented interpretation of the Italianate style, Saint John the Evangelist embodies the distinctive features of a period and type of architecture that, while popular in Baltimore in the 1850s and 1870s for residential, commercial, and industrial buildings, was not commonly used for church structures. The important features are twin square towers; round-arched window, vent, and entrance openings, and a stuccoed exterior façade surface with belt courses and recessed bays. The building is the most intact remaining example of an Italianate public edifice in Baltimore. The church achieves additional architectural significance as the work of the Baltimore architectural firm Niernsee and Neilson, the partnership responsible for the designs of several of the grand public and private buildings in the city in the mid- to late-19th century.