Name That Church, Mr. Chase

Identifying the church depicted in this William M. Chase stereograph was a bit of a challenge.

Like many urban churches, Ascension Protestant Episcopal Church, aka the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Ascension, has gone through fires, rebuilding, and changes in name.

The Norman gothic revival building, located at Lafayette Avenue and Arlington Street in Baltimore, was designed by Hutton and Murdoch, and opened in 1869. It burned to the ground on 12 May 1873 and was rebuilt and reopened in January of 1874 (Scharf, History of Baltimore City and County, pg. 522.)

Here is a photograph, owned by the Maryland Historical Society, of Ascension as it appeared in 1910. Note the missing spire.

The church was sold to the African Protestant Episcopal Church and became St. James Episcopal Church Lafayette Square in 1932 (Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress) .

The difficulty in identifying this church involved more than a name change. On the back of the stereoview, Chase lists all the views available in the series. The view on the reverse was supposed to be underlined, but it is not.  Only two churches are listed: the famous Mount Vernon Place Episcopal Church and the First Presbyterian Church, both of which are much more ornately high Gothic Revival than the one depicted.

An additional difficulty: the spire of the tower was apparently removed at some point, possibly when the church was rebuilt in 1873-1874. Some buildings listed on the back of this stereoview, such as the Second Empire-style City Hall, were not finished until 1875, making it difficult to pinpoint the date this card was published.

An article from the January 5th, 1874 Baltimore Sun about the reopening of the rebuilt church mentions that “the spire . . . has not been rebuilt as yet.” This strongly suggests the photograph was taken between 1869 and May 1873.

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