In the Fall of 1817, John M. Peck and James E. Welch arrived in the village of St. Louis to perform missionary work. At this time, Saint Louis was a town of roughly 3,000 inhabitants. These men performed a dilligent search and turned up a total of seven other Baptists in the entire city. They joined together in the acquisition of a small room on Main Street south of Market for the first meeting place of Saint Louis Baptists. The First Baptist Church was formed on February 18th, 1818, three years before Missouri was admitted as the 24th state of the Union. Their first official church building was an "edifice of brick, forty feet in front by sixty feet deep on the southwest corner of third and Market streets".
The early Baptist church of Saint Louis would see many additions and changes. There would be fires and demolitions of various church buildings throughout the 1800's leading all the way up to the present church. In the early days, they often used Chouteau's Pond in which to perform their baptisms.
On December 8th of 1906, ground was broken for the new Baptist Church building. The cornerstone was laid on April 27th, 1907. Each member of the committee of the church was given a ceremonial trowel. Many of those present used their trowel to help spread the mortar. The trowels were then nickel-plated and engraved as souvenirs.
Under the cornerstone, there was placed a copper box. Inside this time capsule, the committe placed copies of Saint Louis newspapers, church manuals, World's Fair maps, a list of members, an order of the exercises for cornerstone laying (printed on silk), photographs of members, pictures of the building process, many other assorted photographs and documents and a book titled "Saint Louis Through a Camera".
The building was inspired by the architecture of Lombardy and North Italy in general. The brick used was all from the same burning. The darkest bricks were used in the base and carefully, gradually lightened in color towards the top of the bell tower. The trim was all made from special original designs and carefully molded. Altogether, it is comprised of about 1,000,000 bricks. Over 58,000 bricks were ground by hand for the major arches and accented pieces of ornamentation. The arches were assembled at the time they were ground, labeled and packed in such a way so that the masons at the site of the construction would simply reassemble them on-site. It was said that this building represented the finest brickwork in the United States. Unfortunately, however, in 1951 the top 60 feet of the bell tower was removed due to structural problems.
The congregation remained in this building only until 1955, when it moved west along with many of its neighbors and peers at the time. The church building itself would remain in use by a variety of other congregations until sometime in the late 2000's. In the 1980's, the Life Cathedral called this building home and they hosted gospel concerts here which were broadcast on KIRL-AM radio through the 80s and 90s. By the late 2000's, the building was vacant. And as of my first visit, which occurred in 2009, the electric and water were still on. See my first visit here. Since then, however, the building has gone downhill quickly. The basement is filled with water and damage to the shingles has caused water to leak into the sanctuary.
Fortunately, the building was sold recently to Cathedral Square Brewery, who is currently undergoing a $4 Million renovation. The brewery plans call for a restaurant and beer garden. Construction is set to take 8-12 months to complete and work has just begun. Just this past week, they boarded up all doors and windows in an effort to keep out vagrants and have begun clearing up the vegetation. The interior has also been nearly completely stripped of all previous tenant's modifications and it is returning to its original aesthetics.
Source: Second Baptist Church Souvenir Volume Commemorating the Dedication of the New Buildings (St. Louis 1908).