Description

The church relocated to 79th and Broadway in 1891. This fourth church building stands near the site where its first pastor, John Gano, escaped an ambush as he left the city to join General Washington as a chaplain. The church’s original building was on Gold Street, and was desecrated by the British during the Revolution. A second building was built on Broome Street and a third on Park Avenue and 39th Street.

A design competition was held to select an architect for its current building and architect George M. Keister, known primarily as a residential and theater designer, was selected. He was also the architect for the Apollo Theater. He and Dr. Haldeman applied a Biblical-related symbolism to the building.

The exterior is of Indiana limestone on a base of Milford granite. The auditorium is 59 ft. by 105 ft., and is 62 ft. high in the center. Originally, the roof and ceiling were stained glass. When it became impossible to fix the leaks that developed, an Italian-style tile roof was placed over the building. The balcony was added in 1903 to make the seating capacity about 1000. The organ pipes visible in the auditorium were part of the organ brought from the Park Avenue building.

The two unequal towers over the corner entrance of the main auditorium are examples of Biblical symbolism. The taller tower had at its top an electric light and is understood to represent Christ as the head of the church and the light of the world. The lower tower, which appears to be incomplete, was designed to represent the Church, which will remain incomplete, until the return of Christ. The two smaller towers represent the Old and New Testaments as the basis of our faith.

The cornerstone is marked with the initials FBC in monogram style, and with the Greek letters Chi and Rho, the first two letters of the name of Christ, and by the letters Alpha and Omega, the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet used as a title for Christ in the Scriptures. These Greek letters appear also in the front and back of the auditorium. Originally, there were stars of David on the four corners of the upper auditorium to show that the Gospel was to be taken from the four corners of the earth, to the Jew first and also the Greek. (Rom. 1:16)

First Baptist Church has pictures of 18 of its 19 pastors displayed in the hallway going from the front entrance toward Haldeman Chapel. Past them is the Bible prophecy chart designed by Dr. Haldeman in the early 1900s.

Another treasure is found in Gano Chapel. Here are the paintings of Gano baptizing General Washington and Gano praying in thanksgiving for the British surrender. In the hallway outside of Gano Chapel are several pictures of the church taken in the 1920s before the stained glass roof was covered over. They provide a detailed picture of the early church architecture.