The former church at 400 West 24th Street is a small stone building with a gable roof used in 2010 as a garage. Despite several modern additions and changes, the building retains original window openings, original roof framing, and pressed tin ceiling panels. Constructed under the supervision of Rev. Edward L. Watson around 1891 as the 24th Street Methodist Episcopal Church, the building remained in use as a church until it was converted to use as a motor freight station sometime prior to 1951.
The 24th Street ME Church was constructed to serve the Royer Hill Church or Royer’s Hill Chapel established in December 1885. The Royer Hill Church was established following the relocation of the First Methodist Episcopal Church from its location on Charles Street to a new location outside of the city limits at 22nd Street and St. Paul Street. Despite opposition from two-thirds of existing members, Rev. John F. Goucher, D.D. led the effort to construct a new building designed by Stanford White and move the church out to its then suburban context. In When Church became Theatre, Jeanne Halgren Kilde notes:
“By November 1887, the new church listed three mission churches to its credit: the Royer Hill Church, the Guilford Avenue Sunday School and Chapel, and the Oxford Church and Sunday School. Thus, the physical distance between the middle-class members of the congregation and the urban working classes allowed a two-pronged mission to arise: a family ministerial and worship mission focused on the pastoral needs of the suburban members and an outreach mission focused on the perceived religious, moral, and social deficiencies of the urban population.”
Located at the southeast corner of East Lanvale Street and Guilford Avenue, the Guilford Avenue Chapel was demolished at some point following 1951. Located at the northeast corner of Loch Raven Road and Cokesbury Avenue, the Oxford Church and Sunday Schools remained extant in February 2010 and was then in use as the Jerusalem Baptist Church.
Rev. Edward L. Watson
Born in Baltimore on February 6, 1861, Rev. Edward L. Watson joined the pastorate of the First ME Church in 1885 under Rev. John F. Goucher, D.D. and was assigned “special charge” over the Royer Hill Church. After six years in the pastorate, Watson “saw the erection of the Twenty-fourth Street Church. The transition from a mission to an established church followed a pattern, as an 1886 account of new churches in Baltimore notes:
“Not content with carrying on their work within their own borders, many of the churches have established flourishing missions, which have gradually grown to church dimensions, and the needs of the times have demanded new buildings for some of the older churches.”
Listing a number of “new departures already completed, just begun or nearing completion,” the article identifies “Royer’s Hill Church, in charge of the Rev. E.L. Watson” as an example of this trend.
The church is located in the neighborhood of Remington, named for William Remington, an early Baltimore landowner who held much of the property that became the neighborhood. The population grew with the industrial development adjoining the railroad tracks, an electric railway extended through the area in 1885 brought new residents and continued development following the annexation of the area into the city in 1888. By 1901, the area south and west of the church is developed with blocks of modest partial areaway rowhouses. The area to the east of the church had extensive industrial development following the railroad line. On a 1901 Sanborn map, the Royer’s Hill Chapel, evidently a simple gable roof structure, is visible immediately west of the church on Hampden Avenue.
By 1915, the original Royer’s Hill Chapel appears to have been demolished and Hampden Avenue was substantially widened up to meet the east face of the church. Extensive development occurred throughout Remington from 1914 through the 1920s, with daylight and marble row houses being the most common types. A summary of Remington history notes, “Marble row houses were characterized by their flat or slightly bowed fronts and featured decorative marble and stained glass. The more elaborate daylight row houses became popular in the 1920s and featured a window in each room, often including a skylight in interior rooms.” The church remained at least through the 1920s when it was ministered by Rev. H.B. Parsons.
By 1951, Hampden Avenue had been closed at 24th Street and the church had been converted for use as a “Motor Frt. Station.” Changes to the structure initially included the addition of a large wraparound porch on the south side of the structure and a large garage door cut into the west face of the building. At this time, the porch has been enclosed with concrete block, windows have been removed and their openings filled, and a section of the south face of the building has been removed.
Despite these changes, however, the building remains an anchor on the corner of 24th Street and Sisson Street and is a rare example of a mission associated with Lovely Lane United Methodist Church. Though the developer has yet to share a detailed design for the southwest corner of the site, the existing illustration suggests the complete demolition of the church and the construction of a multistory parking structure and truck loading dock facing the historic two-story rowhouses on the south side of 24th Street.
A December 11, 2009 Baltimore Sun article on concerns regarding the proposed development in Remington, quoted Joan Floyd, president of the Remington Neighborhood Alliance, proposing that the former church “would seem like a better face to the neighborhood than what’s suggested now” and that if preserved the 24th Street Church could provide, “a good transition between the large structures in the new development and the smaller rowhouses in her community.” Floyd’s comments are echoed in a December blog post on Baltimore Brew by Gerald Neily, titled “Five fixes to make the Lowe’s redevelopment work for Remington” which noted:
Save the stone church building at 24th and Sisson Streets. This gracious, irreplaceable old building is the perfect transition between the hulking new development and the adjacent neighborhood south of 24th Street, which features small-scaled houses. It could also become an identifying landmark for the retail complex, enabling potential non-local customers to associate it with Sisson Street, which provides the easiest and best access to the site from the Jones Falls Expressway via 28th Street.
In February 2010, 400 West 24th Street was owned by F & C Properties LLC located at 320 W 24th Street and continued to be used as an industrial property.