The First Baptist Church’s congregation’s history goes back to 1745, first occupying a loft on downtown William Street in 1753, then its first proper church building on Gold Street in 1760 under Rev. John Gano, who had baptized George Washington and later was a founder of Brown University in Rhode Island. A second Gold Street church was built in 1801, followed by a Gothic Revival church at Broome and Elizabeth Streets in 1841 and a brownstone Gothic at Park Avenue and East 39th Street in 1871.
The present building at the northwest corner of Broadway and West 79th, the church’s fifth in NYC, culminated its gradual uptown movements. It is a wildly eclectic structure with gables and towers of varying heights. Architect George M. Keister set the building to face the intersection instead of either Broadway or 79th, and designed a tall spire and a smaller, seemingly “unfinished” one, representing respectively, Jesus Christ as head of the church and the still incomplete church awaiting Christ’s return.
Whether you’re a believer or not, you can’t deny the striking figure this building cuts on the Upper West Side.