Our Old Brick Church is the second church building to stand on the property of Christ Episcopal Church, on a two-acre plot deeded to the parish in 1738 by Caleb Dorsey. Erected in 1809, possibly on the timber foundation of the earlier pre-1728 church building, it was constructed by area craftsmen using local brick and timber. The frame sacristy was added in approximately 1835. Old Brick was consecrated in 1811 by the Right Reverend Thomas Claggett, Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of Maryland, and a former rector. On October 16, 2011, the Rt. Rev. Eugene Sutton used Bishop Claggett’s words in a service commemorating the original consecration. Old Brick is the oldest church building still in use in Howard County, and commemorates our worship community’s presence in this location since 1711.
Old Brick Church is one of the first Episcopal churches built in Maryland after the Revolutionary War when the Church of England, the Episcopal Church’s parent church, was disestablished as the state religion. Like all the first generation Episcopal Churches in Maryland (1776-1814), Christ Church is very small and plain compared to its Colonial predecessors and its successors built through the next two centuries. It is significant that it was not replaced by a larger and more elaborate building during the subsequent years, nor did it experience significant alterations to its size or sophistication. In contrast to the small size and extreme simplicity of Old Brick, the most significant and astonishing detail is the interior gallery around three sides, a feature generally found only in larger and more formal churches of the Colonial period. Some of the original pews are retained in the north gallery.
Restoration began in 2005 with an architectural condition assessment by James T. Wollon, Jr., AIA. Mr. Wollon is a noted expert on Maryland church architecture. Based on his recommendations, the first work completed in 2007 was an historically appropriate cedar shingle roof installed by Ruff Roofers. Further work in 2007 included: electrical upgrades by Blue Jay Electric; restoration of the early 19th C. bell by McShane Bell Foundry; restoration of the 1909 Centennial stained glass windows by Artisan Glass Works; and landscaping and brick walks by Outdoor Architects. In 2008, the majority of the exterior restoration work was completed by Herman Construction. This work included Federal period redesign of front door surrounds and replacement of 20th C. glue chip window glass with historic reproduction clear glass. Exterior shutters and modern sacristy clapboards were replaced; all wood trim was repainted in historic colors. The sacristy has a new exterior Federal-period light and granite steps. This work has brought Old Brick much closer to its historic appearance, and added greatly to our enjoyment of the 1809-style services held on August 23, 2009 to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of Old Brick’s construction.
Interior restoration by Herman Construction commenced in 2009 with replacement of damaged woodwork and plaster, and filling old vents in the 1958 brick floor. Work continued through 2010 and 2011, including fire code improvements for the boiler closet, restoration of brass elements, carpentry and plaster repair, and renovation of the sacristy. In 2011, the interior was returned to its early blue and white paint colors by Sunshine Painting. New furnishings added in 2011 include carpeted stair treads and a dossal curtain behind the altar. All restoration work was undertaken with the greatest care to retain as much as possible of the original fabric of the church, plus its 1909 Centennial additions, using contractors with extensive experience in historic structures, recommended by the Maryland Historic Trust and Mr. Wollon. Inappropriate past alterations have been reversed where possible, and the original appearance of features restored as closely as can be determined with the minimal documentation available. Six years of dedicated work have lead to an essentially completed structure which was enjoyed by parishioners and visitors attending our Old Brick Celebration Weekend, October 14-16, 2011.
Old Brick Church has been listed since 1978 on the National Register of Historic Places. In May 2006, Old Brick was added to Preservation Howard County’s annual list of the Most Endangered Historical Sites in Howard County. The list highlights properties in Howard County that the nonprofit society, which is dedicated to saving historic sites, considers endangered and in need of public support to preserve. Restoration work to date has been almost wholly funded by members of the parish, supporting their belief that good stewardship mandates the preservation of a structure that sheltered our spiritual ancestors and served as a community anchor in the early years of Howard County. We are also grateful for grants from Preservation Maryland and Preservation Howard County. We welcome support from the modern inhabitants of our community who recognize the value of preserving our shared heritage for future generations.
Support for the ongoing preservation of Old Brick Church is gratefully accepted. Additional funding is needed for remaining features: the gable medallion, radiator covers, interior storm windows, candle brackets, and period-appropriate seating. Photographic images of Old Brick from before 1900 are particularly sought for architectural verification. Inscribed bricks commemorating your Christ Church ancestor or favorite parish memory are available for placement in front of Old Brick. For more information, or to make a donation, please contact The Friends of Old Brick via the Church Office.