St Barnabas Chapel

The original home of the Gospel Mission Chapel in east Frederick. It is was later renamed the St. Barnabas Chapel.

The cornerstone for the Gospel Mission Chapel was laid “with appropriate ceremonies in the presence of a large audience” on Thanksgiving Day in 1910. This modest building is tucked in at the very edges of the city’s downtown core on the south end of Winchester Street, and plays an important role in the history and development of the City’s east side.

Several years ago, the City of Frederick used grant funds from the Maryland Historical Trust to research this property, among others, in an effort to learn more about previously undocumented historic resources.

After the Civil War there was a nationwide trend away from an agriculture driven economy and a shift towards industrialization and urbanization. This trend was reflected locally when Frederick County was ranked second in value of manufactures after Baltimore County in 1870.

Canning factories, meat processing, brick and fertilizer manufacturers, lime works, dairies, and other light industries proliferated in the southeast part of the City, supported in part by the B&O and Pennsylvania railroads in this area. As a result, new residential neighborhoods were constructed for housing the influx of laborers. The Lower Depot neighborhood along B&O Avenue and Water Street, and Schleysville at Patrick and Franklin streets, were two such neighborhoods. Winchester Street was another. Platted in 1894 as part of the division of the adjacent Winchester Brick Yard, it included 36 residential lots. The 1910 census records document 29 residents on Winchester Street, all white, and listed occupations such as general laborer, “brick yard,” railroad foreman, wagon driver, and house carpenter.

In order to serve the spiritual needs of their neighborhood, a group of residents formed the Gospel Mission Workers in 1910 for the purposes of establishing a “mission” chapel—a non-denominational community church. The group purchased two lots on Winchester Street to construct the chapel, which was completed by 1911 along with another 14 dwellings.

The Gospel Mission Chapel was served for several years by Rev. Luther Nichols, a Methodist minister, who had been holding open-air services in the area prior to the construction of the chapel. After Nichols’ death, the United Brethren Church conducted a Sunday school at the chapel, which was subsequently conducted by a neighborhood volunteer, Mr. Fogle.

By 1919, services were seldom held at the chapel and it had been largely abandoned until All Saints’ Parish rector, the Rev. Douglass Hooff, took on the Gospel Mission Chapel as a mission of the parish, at which time it became known as St. Barnabas Chapel. The chapel was reinvigorated with weekly church services, Sunday school, and Bible classes. The Walkersville Episcopal Church donated a bell to the St. Barnabas Chapel about 1921 and it was reported that “St. Barnabas has hopes to become a real church house for this section of Frederick.”

The St. Barnabas Chapel mission grew steadily through the 1930s, a difficult period in many working-class neighborhoods. The building was improved with a new alter and chancel designed by All Saints’ member and prominent local citizen Charles W. Ross III. Sometime between 1930 and 1947, an enclosed entrance addition was added to the south side of the chapel near the east chancel end of the building and a Sunday school building was constructed on the chapel lot.

In 1948, the Gospel Mission Chapel trustees officially conveyed the chapel property to the Vestry of All Saints’ Parish. By the 1950s and early 1960s the Sunday School served an average of 70 children. In the 1970s attendance at St. Barnabas Chapel began to decline along with the area’s fading industry.

In 1989 the chapel “became an independent worshiping community” and in 2012, the All Saints’ Parish Vestry sold the chapel property to Church of the Living God La Luz Del Mundo of Washington, D.C.

Send your questions and comments to PreservationMatters@cityoffrederickmd.gov.

(2) comments

Piedmontgardener

Superbly written and researched, thank you for this history. The new Church leadership has done a nice job on renovations in the past year or so.

Dwasserba

So well-written. The most unassuming buildings have histories that show someone cared. My dad maintained "the smallest freestanding chapel in the US" (Decker Chapel - no relation) at his own expense for decades and got it listed on the Register. After he died it was in peril as land around it sold, he never owned it, but Elk County finally took it over and takes credit for it today. Dad is mentioned nowhere in the history of the building. He was always a behind-scenes kind of guy and would not mind as much as I do. I liked it, and was too frequently outraged as a weird child for how history was not being respected as I would want it to be. Dad agreed in this instance and was faithful long after I lived there.

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