History of Lovely Lane

The Original Lovely Lane Meeting House was built in 1774.

In 1784, following the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, the Methodists in America called a conference for the purpose of organizing a new Methodist denomination – famously known as the Christmas Conference. They gathered at the Lovely Lane Meeting house and a new denomination was born: the Methodist Episcopal Church.

John Wesley had reluctantly agreed to the American Methodists’ desire to organize their own church. He sent Thomas Coke to supervise the process and to consecrate Francis Asbury as “general superintendent” of the Methodists in America. When Coke and Asbury met at Barratt’s Chapel in November 1784, Asbury refused the appointment unless the preachers elected him. The meeting was scheduled for the next month, December, at Lovely Lane Meeting House in Baltimore.

Freeborn Garrettson was sent “like an arrow,” in Coke’s words, to contact as many preachers as possible to meet in Baltimore. Garrettson recorded in his journal: “My dear Master enabled me to ride about twelve hundred miles in about six weeks; and preach going and coming constantly. The conference began on Christmas day.” More than sixty preachers (and numerous visitors) responded to Garrettson’s call.

Francis Asbury records in his journal for Friday, December 24, 1784: “It was agreed to form ourselves into an Episcopal Church, and to have superintendents, elders, and deacons. When the conference was seated, Dr. Coke and myself were unanimously elected to the superintendency of the Church, and my ordination followed… We spent the whole week in conference, debating freely, and determining all things by a majority of votes… We were in great haste, and did much business in a little time.”

Besides organizing a church and approving Asbury and Coke as their leaders, the members elected twelve preachers as “elders,” Wesley’s suggested term for fully ordained clergy. The conference also formally adopted The Sunday Service, Wesley’s abridgment of the English Book of Common Prayer, as the new church’s liturgical guide.

Present Building

Present Building

Lovely Lane Chapel

Lovely Lane Chapel

1st Light Street Church

1st Light Street Church

2nd Light Street Church

2nd Light Street Church

Charles Street Church

Charles Street Church

In 1786, the Lovely Lane congregation relocated to nearby Light Street, and the original site was later occupied by the Merchants Club (now 206 E. Redwood St.). The original building was taken down, but a plaque marks the location where it stood.

The Light Street church burned down in ____ and was rebuilt across the alley, also on Light Street. Baltimore City wanted to widen Light Street and the building was condemned to be demolished. So in ____ the congregation moved to Charles Street & Fayette Street, into the building of a daughter congregation who were themselves planning to move to a new building (the now famous Mt. Vernon Place church). But eventually Baltimore City decided it wanted to widen that street, and that building was condemned to be torn down.

Coincidentally, the denomination was approaching its one hundredth birthday (1884) and the Council of Bishops directed the congregation of First Church (as it had come to be known) to look for ways to commemorate the centennial. Under the direction of Rev. John Goucher, who enlisted architect Stanford White, a new and monumental building was conceived and designed – One which would incorporate elements of early Christian Basilicas and modern Methodist meeting houses.

The cornerstone was laid October 29, 1884 and the building was dedicated November 6, 1887 as First Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1955, the congregation voted to return to their original name of Lovely Lane. The present building is on the National Register of Historic Places, and was named as one of the American Institute of Architects “One Hundred Most Important Buildings in North America.” It is currently home to the United Methodist Historical Society Museum and the Baltimore Washington Conference Archives.

Today, the Lovely Lane congregation is committed to its ministry of witness for the many visitors and confirmands from around the country and around the world who make this a pilgrimage destination. At the same time, we remain a community church and a neighborhood anchor.

Original Lovely Lane Meetinghouse Site

The site of the original Lovely Lane Meeting House – the site where Methodism was first organized as a denomination – is a Heritage Landmark of the United Methodist Church. Although the original building itself no longer exists, a plaque commemorating this site is located at 206 E. Redwood Street (formerly Lovely Ln.), about 1.75 miles from the present building.

Pilgrimage Opportunities

Book a Tour

Request a visit to Lovely Lane and the museum, library and archives. Tours are available after Sunday worship, or through the week by appointment.

Lovely Lane Museum Entrance View

The Lovely Lane Museum

The Museum at Lovely Lane provides an overview of the United Methodist history of this area through artwork and artifacts and the landmark 1884 Lovely Lane Church, the ME Church’s Centennial monument to the Christmas Conference.