Jennifer K. Cosham
Wesley Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church
Liberty Road (MD 26), Sykesville, Carroll County
Wesley Chapel is a small stone church built in 1822 to serve an early Methodist congregation near Eldersburg in Carroll County, Maryland. The gable-roofed building is constructed of uncoursed rubble, one story high, three bays wide by three deep, and faces Liberty Road (MD 26) to the south. The principal entrance is centered in the south gable façade and consists of paneled double-leaf doors set within a paneled reveal and surmounted by a transom. The flanking bays hold 12/12 sash; a smaller 12/12 window above the entrance lights a gallery. The west elevation has three evenly-spaced 12/12 windows; on the east, a central entrance identical to that on the south is flanked by 12/12 sash. A three-sided, hip-roofed apse projects from the north gable; this façade is finished in stucco which is scored to simulate ashlar. The interior consists of a single large barrel-vaulted nave, with the pulpit located in a lower vault in the apse; a gallery spans the rear of the nave, reached by a winder stair in the southeast corner. The building retains considerable original trim and hardware, including the pulpit and pulpit rail, gallery, stair and balustrade, paneled doors, two open rim locks and a cast-iron box lock. A small cemetery provides the setting for the chapel. A modern residential subdivision surrounds the property.
Wesley Chapel is significant for its architecture, and for its historical association with the development of Methodism in Maryland. The building has remained substantially unaltered since its construction in 1822, and presents a significant example of early 19th century vernacular church architecture in the rural Piedmont region of Maryland. Characteristic features include rubble masonry construction and simple massing, coupled with restrained exterior and interior detailing. The paneled doors which retain their original hardware and the pulpit, pulpit rail, and stair balustrade are especially noteworthy. Wesley Chapel derives additional significance from its association with the development of Methodism in Carroll County. The Methodist movement in America began in Carroll County, Maryland about 1760. Wesley Chapel was erected to serve one of the earliest Methodist congregations in the county, reputedly organized in 1780. The present building reflects the efforts of a mature, established group. The Wesley Chapel is the oldest unaltered Methodist house of worship remaining in the County; one extant building, the Stone Chapel at New Windsor, predates it (1783) but has been extensively altered over time.