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Maryland's National Register Properties

Photo credit: MHT Files, n.d.
Zion Lutheran Church
Inventory No.: B-33
Date Listed: 12/30/2011
Location: 400 E. Lexington Street (140-146 North Gay Street), Baltimore, Baltimore City
Category: Building
Period/Date of Construction: 1808, 1840, 1913, 1922
Architect/Builder: Sanctuary: George Rohrback and Johann Machenheimer, builders. Parish House, Parsonage, and Loggia: Designed by Pastor Julius Hofmann; Theodore W. Pietsch, architect
Description: Located at the eastern edge of downtown Baltimore, near the site of the city’s earliest residential communities, Zion Church is a Gothic brick building constructed in 1808 to serve Baltimore’s first and oldest German immigrant congregation, established in 1755. The church and related buildings are sited within a walled courtyard. A Parish House and bell tower, built in 1913, are located behind the church; in 1922, a parsonage was added to the south, connected by a loggia. Northeast of the church is a two-story Gothic-influenced building constructed in 1922, with a storefront fronting on North Gay Street and sexton’s quarters above. The sanctuary is a two-story, rectangular, Flemish-bond brick building with a shallow gable roof. The main entrance, on the eastern gable end, is located a few yards north of E. Lexington Street and faces east onto N. Gay Street. Originally built in 1808, the exterior walls of the sanctuary have remained largely intact despite a devastating fire in 1840 which required complete reconstruction of the interior and loss of the bell tower which once rose above the main entrance on the east façade. The church is laid on a foundation of roughly hewn stone, with a slightly projecting brick water table topped by a six-inch cap of beveled limestone. The east façade consists of three bays, with the projecting central bay rising above the peak of the gable roof to form a crenellated parapet. The wall of each bay is slightly recessed within a surrounding framework of brick. The brick walls of the round-arched central entryway are covered in wood paneling which mirrors the arrangement of raised panels on the narrow, three-panel wooden double doors. Each door is topped with a fixed panel, with the whole topped by a semi-circular section of woodwork divided into two panels. The doorways flanking the main entrance are nearly identical in detail, but the Gothic arch which tops each side entrance is of brick, rather than wood. Centered above each door on the second level are stained glass windows nearly as large as the openings below, topped with the same Gothic arch with radial brick lintels as on the side entryways. The date of the congregation’s inception, “A D 1755,” is spelled out in the space above the central window on the second level in black wrought-iron digits affixed to the brick façade. Above this, a wooden cornice spans the width of the façade, decorated with simple modillions. The brickwork then continues up to the eaves of the gabled end, where a wide cornice with a simple ogee design runs up to the sides of the projecting central façade. The upper central façade is slightly inset within a surrounding framework of brick similar to the façade of the first two levels, with a smaller Gothic stained-glass window in the center. The top of this section, which rises several feet above the roof’s peak, has a crenellated design underlined by a small lip over widely spaced brick dentils. This upper section serves both as an architectural nod to the bell tower that was lost to the fire of 1840 and to heighten the overall medieval aspect of the building, as do the square piers topped by crenellations rising from both the north and south ends of the main façade. The north and south elevations of the church are essentially identical, with six bays on both the first and second level, all composed of large Gothic windows similar to those found on the main façade. The inset brick pattern on the walls is also used on the sides, although the effect is less noticeable as the inset takes place only at the extreme east and west ends of the façade and along the top above the second-level windows. A single row of simple brick corbelling runs above the inset row and is topped by a copper gutter. The west elevation is largely hidden from view by additions made in the early to mid 20th century. The top of the gable end, which is just visible from the ground, has the same cornice arrangement as the east façade without the inte Significance: The Zion Church Complex is architecturally significant as a representative example of types and styles of architecture designed to serve Baltimore’s German immigrant community in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The sanctuary represents one of the earliest church buildings surviving in Baltimore, and the early 20th century buildings incorporate design motifs celebrating the heritage of the congregation. The property derives additional historical significance for its association with the history of immigration in Baltimore.


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