First Baptist Church

Burlington, Vermont

Building Description


The First Baptist Church at 81 St. Paul Street in Burlington, Vermont, occupies a roughly square, relatively small lot. The church building itself faces to the east, away from Lake Champlain. To its south stands an office building and the accompanying parking lot. Behind the church, on the western side, is the church's parking lot and a private house facing the other side of the block. A narrow alley between a row of houses comprises the northern edge of the property. There is very little extra space on the lot. The building itself is set back approximately twenty feet from the street and there is a row of bushes in front of it.


The building was built in 1864 and is constructed of a timber truss system with a redstone foundation, a brick veneer laid in common bond and a gabled, slate shingled roof. This building description will begin on the eastern facade, which is the primary facade, and continue to the southern, western and northern facades. It has a roughly rectangular massing with a projecting entry tower topped by a 110' steeple on the front facade and a three story addition built in 1984 on the northern side. The main block is six bays long, with the two rearmost added in an 1871 renovation, and two stories tall, with a brick belt course in between. Ten stone steps lead up to the front door from the street level. The wooden double front door has partial sidelights and is topped by an arched window. The entrance itself is recessed underneath a large, rounded arch with a belt course above it.

The front facade consists of a projecting entry tower in the center with a symmetrical main block. (The main block was designed symmetrically, but became asymmetrical after a 1984 addition, which is even with the roof line on the northern facade). On the first floor of the northern and southern sides, the entry tower is one bay wide and has a double segmentally arched window with a rounded lintel over it. All of the lintels on the building above the basement level are stone. Above a belt course, the second floor has a single arched window with a lintel and the third floor has a small arched window with lintel. The roofline beneath the steeple has a small gable and wooden brackets. The copper-sheathed steeple rises 110' in the air and has acquired a rich green patina. It is square, tapers to a point and has three distinct sections on all four sides: the first has a large arch surrounding two smaller ones, the second has a small dormer window with rounded arch corbelling and the third and uppermost level is plain.

The front wall of the main block features two-story, tapered brick buttresses on each corner, Italianate wooden brackets underneath the gable roofline and two simple, single pane, colored glass windows on each side. The windows on the first story are square and feature splayed brick lintels and those on the second story are arched with rounded lintels. The projecting entry tower has segmental brick buttresses at the corners, a double, rounded arch window with lintel on the second floor and a single, small arched window with lintel on the third.

The south side facade has six bays in the main block with a smaller, lower section, also brick, on the western end. There is a plain door bay with a small, gabled portico on the basement level in the easternmost bay. The other five bays in the basement level feature four-over-four windows. There are a total of six tapered brick buttresses on the main block of this facade. The first story has six segmentally arched stained glass windows, which feature various religious scenes, with rounded lintels. There are wooden Italianate brackets under the eaves. The gabled, slate roof is clearly visible on this side, including three small ridgeline structures that originally served as vents. On the western most edge of this facade is the smaller block that has another entrance, this one with a handicapped accessible railing and an overhang that was added in 1984. It features two six-over-six windows on the first floor and two arched windows with lintels on the second floor.

The rear facade is similar to the front in that there is a main block with a projecting center block, but it is significantly less ornamental. The main wall is symmetrical. The door on the southern side of the projecting block is new, but the one on the northern side features a transom light and appears to be original. Both entrances have a single arched window with a rounded lintel on the second floor. The roof line above both of them is in a "v" shape. The projecting block has tapered brick buttresses at both corners, a gabled roof and a one-over-one window with a splayed lintel on either side of the entrance covered by a small, one-story gabled portico. There is a chimney visible on the northern corner of this block.

The northern side is a mirror image of the southern side except for a large three-story addition, added in 1984, made of brick. The addition covers the eastern most bay of the main block and is three stories tall. Each level has a double paned window and it has a gabled roof facing north. There is a handicapped accessible railing on the first floor and an entrance into the addition. It was added in order to house an elevator shaft and make the building more handicapped accessible.


Upon entering the church through the main entrance, one faces the recessed apse of the pulpit. The main interior space of the church consists of a large sanctuary with an approximately 20' high ceiling and a recessed apse in the main block. The recessed apse features large windows on the sides and a large cross above the altar The apse is underneath an arch, which is flush with the western wall, and there are doors on either side of the apse. The apse also contains the original organ, built by the Hook Organ Company of Boston and installed in 1864. The eastern side of the sanctuary is where the choir loft was located before it was partitioned off during the 1961 renovation to form classroom space. The north and south walls are painted white and each feature four arched stained glass windows containing various religious scenes. There is a continuous molding above and between each of the windows, similar to linked square lintels. Each wall features a chair rail and decorative wainscoting. The ceiling is arched and features a large circular metal vent, which was formerly used to cool the church and is now strictly decorative. Six relatively newly added lamps, three on each side, are suspended from the ceiling. There are seventeen rows of original, plain pine pews. To the west of the sanctuary is a general use area and the stairs to the former choir loft. The interior of the church has been altered several times since it was built and is significantly less ornate now than it originally was.

Downstairs are other areas, added during modern renovations, utilized by the church, including offices, classrooms, a conference room, kitchen, fellowship hall and nursery.