Behind the Scenes Tour of the First and Franklin Presbyterian Church

Image courtesy Baltimore Sun

We have a rare opportunity to climb up into the scaffolding inside one of the great interior historic spaces in Baltimore: the First and Franklin Presbyterian Church in Mount Vernon.  The church is in the midst of renovations, and we have a chance to see the historic building up close and up high before the scaffolding comes down with Rev. Dr. Alison Halsey, the church’s pastor and our tour guide.

The renovations are being undertaken by the architecture firm of Murphy and Dittenhafer.  Principal architect Michael Murphy, who was overseeing the work, passed away unexpectedly last week–an enormous loss for preservation and architecture in Baltimore.  We are holding this tour as a tribute to Mr. Murphy and his contributions to Baltimore.

Tour Information

Date:   Sunday, February 21, 2010
Time:   2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Place:   First and Franklin Church, 210 West Madison Street at the corner of Park Avenue
Meet at the church’s “Backus House,” on Madison Avenue next to the church
Park on the Street
Cost:    $10

In 1761, a group of Scots-Irish “Dissenters” (opponents of the Church of England) came to Baltimore Towne from Pennsylvania to escape the French and Indian War.  They founded the First Presbyterian Church, appropriately named as it really was the first Presbyterian church in the city.  The founding minister, Rev. Patrick Allison (1740 – 1802), was a Chaplain to the Continental Congress and was a personal friend of George Washington.  After locating in several places downtown, the congregation built the current church between 1854 and 1859.  With its New Brunswick freestone exterior and 273-foot tall steeple (still the tallest in the city), this Gothic Revival church dominates Midtown Baltimore.  The interior boasts a triple-vaulted sanctuary with massive plaster pendants and is considered one of the finest Victorian plaster interiors in the country.  To pile on to this beauty, the church has many windows from Tiffany Studios, as well as a host of other companies from England, Italy, New York and Boston.  In 2009, the church embarked on an extensive restoration plan under the guidance of Murphy and Dittenhafer architects.  The Rev. Dr. Alison Halsey from the church has offered to lead our Behind the Scenes Baltimore tour group for a look at the historic church mid-way through the restoration.  The tour will feature a chance to climb up into the scaffolding to get an up-close look at the rosettes, gilding, plaster-work, and even signatures and scribbles from craftsman long ago inside this fantastic historic space.  We hope that you can join us and our hosts at the First and Franklin Presbyterian Church for this Sunday event.

Please note that the highlight of the tour is the chance to climb scaffolding.  The scaffolding is very sturdy and rated to hold 40 people or more.  If you’d like to do this part of the tour, please wear sturdy shoes.


Please click here to register. Space is limited on this tour. Confirmations will be sent by email, and payment will be due upon confirmation. For additional information and questions, call Baltimore Heritage at 410-332-9992.

Thank you to PNC Bank and Rohrer Studio, our tour series sponsors. This tour series is made possible in part by a generous contribution from the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts and the Maryland State Arts Council.


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