St. Vincent de Paul Church, Baltimore, view from the Phoenix Shot Tower, 2015.

Heritage Fund Highlight: Preserving Historic St. Vincent de Paul Church

01/07/2017
By Preservation Maryland

St. Vincent de Paul Church has been a Baltimore institution since 1841 and is the oldest Roman Catholic parish in Baltimore to operate continuously in its original church structure. The church’s slender, 150-foot, Georgian style tower capped with a copper dome is a Baltimore landmark and Preservation Maryland recently assisted with preserving the facade of this important building.

THE PEOPLE OF ST. VINCENT

St. Vincent de Paul Church became a cultural and social center for the many Irish and Italian immigrants who came to Baltimore in the nineteenth century and by 1865 weekly attendance was approximately 2,000 people. Unlike other churches at this time, the St. Vincent de Paul congregation also included free people of color and slaves. Depressions in the floor of the Church still show were the slave gallery was located towards the rear of the structure after it was removed during a 1890s restoration. The Church was also known for its Printers’ Mass, a midnight mass that nearby newspaper workers attended regularly.

Did you know? Archbishop of Baltimore James Cardinal Gibbons consecrated St. Vincent de Paul in 1879, making it only one of four Catholic churches in America to fall under the direct authority of the Vatican.

As the church continued its tradition of serving the surrounding community, St. Vincent’s staff recognized that the historic church building needed significant attention as well. The church building features pediments and lintels quarried from Jones Falls stone, a building material no longer used. Additionally, portions of the original wood trim and window framing on the building’s exterior had rotted significantly. The distinctive gilded swag frieze that wraps around the building was in danger of being lost.

Heritage Fund Support

Preservation Maryland worked with representatives of St. Vincent de Paul Church to coordinate a $2,000 grant from the Heritage Fund to hire restoration contractors while the church obtained the remaining $96,000 required for the project from their internal Historic Trust Fund and additional private bequests. Corners Historic Restoration did the conservation and repair work to restore the south and east façades of the church in the summer of 2016. The remaining work is scheduled for completion by the end of the summer of 2017 along with addressing pressing roof repair issues, as well.

MORE INFORATION

In 2016, Preservation Maryland and the Maryland Historical Trust jointly awarded over $95,000 in grants to deserving projects across the state through the Heritage Fund. The program has distributed over $1 million since its creation! Donor contributions to Preservation Maryland make this program possible and it sadly represents one of the few remaining sources of funding for historic preservation in Maryland. 

This Heritage Fund Highlight post was researched and written by Kyle Fisher, one of Preservation Maryland’s Waxter Interns. With degrees in history, communications, and teaching, Kyle has contributed greatly to our education and outreach programs, including this blog. Learn more about Kyle and our intern program here: presmd.org/waxter.

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Preservation Maryland is Maryland’s first and largest organization dedicated to preserving the state’s historic buildings, neighborhoods, landscapes, and archaeological sites.

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