The first thing visitors might notice about the large, Romanesque Revival-style, red brick and gray stone building that houses the First Baptist Church at 1401 Perry St., Davenport, is that something seems to be missing.
That would be the steeple.
The tower on one corner originally had a high-reaching steeple, but it was so damaged by a storm in the 1950s that it was taken down.
The congregation’s first church was built at the corner of 4th and Brady streets and called Calvary Baptist. The cornerstone of the present building was laid in 1889, and it was designed by John S. Wollacott of Chicago.
Among the church’s outreach programs is a ministry at the Scott County Jail for both men and women, and it provides the office space for the P.U.N.C.H., or People Uniting Neighbors and Churches, group.
First Baptist is among six Hilltop area churches that will be open for tours from 1-5 p.m. Sunday, May 19, for an “Altar Crawl” highlighting the congregations and their work in the community.
Here is information about the other churches, their histories, architecture and main outreach programs.
Bethel A.M.E. Church, 323 W. 11th St.
It is the first African-American congregation in Davenport and among the earliest in the state, founded in 1866.
Its stucco and half-timbered building was designed by the noted Davenport architectural firm of Clausen and Clausen and has been in service since 1908. It features barrel vaulting over the nave, a domed apse behind the altar and stained-glass windows.
Among its ministries is the operation of a food pantry and serving hot lunches to senior citizens once a week.
First Christian Church, 510 E. 15th St.
Although the present church is relatively new, having been built in 1964, the congregation began meeting in 1839 in a house at 3rd and Main streets. As the congregation grew, it moved to different locations. First Christian is affiliated with the Christian Church, also known as the Disciples of Christ.
Among its ministries is providing $20 meat certificates for The Center food pantry.
First Presbyterian Church, 1702 Iowa St.
Say the words “First Pres” and many people think of the classic Romanesque-style church where famed Davenport cornetist Bix Beiderbecke attended services. The congregation also is known for musical programs that have been featured on Iowa Public Television.
The founding congregation met in 1838 and has worshiped over the years at five different locations. The present church was built in 1897-98. Its stained-glass windows are by J and R Lamb Studios of New York City.
A major outreach is offering space — free of charge — for the Davenport unit of the national Boys & Girls Club that has been operating after-school programs there daily for about 15 years.
St. John’s United Methodist Church, 109 E. 14th St.
One of St. John’s highly visible programs is The Center, housed in a former furniture store north of the church, which provides a food pantry operated by Sacred Heart Cathedral, a thrift shop managed by Asbury United Methodist Church of Bettendorf, an education/jobs skills program offered by the Safer Foundation and a “street team” that reaches out to homeless people. The Center also houses the “Skate Church,” whose worship service is designed to appeal to skateboarders and young people considered at-risk.
The Center is its own nonprofit organization, but St. John’s raised $1.4 million for its construction, contributes substantially to its budget and its members serve on the governing board, St. John's Pastor Anne Lippincott said.
The cornerstone for today’s church was laid in 1902, and services began there in 1903. The building was designed by Parke T. Burrows, with F. G. Clausen serving as the supervising engineer. Davenport Methodists trace their beginnings to a small congregation in Rockingham, a settlement located on Davenport’s southwest side. The first services in Davenport began in 1837.
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 121 W. 12th St.
People driving up Davenport’s Brady Street may have noticed the extensive playground that has grown up over the years on the northeast corner of the cathedral’s property.
This is used by an independent program called Positive Parenting, a preschool child care program that began there in 1998. The impetus was the realization that teen moms from nearby Central High School were dropping out because they had nowhere to take their children during the day, the Very Rev. Dr. John Horn, said. The program was designed to help young moms stay in school; it serves people in the neighborhood with accessible, affordable and quality care.
Trinity does not operate the program, but it provides the space free of charge.
The Gothic-style cathedral itself was built in 1867-1873, and it is the oldest on the tour, consecrated as Grace Cathedral. It was the first cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa, designed by Edward Tuckerman Potter of New York City, one of the leading church architects of his time. The first Episcopal parish was established in 1841.
All of the churches on the Altar Crawl except for Bethel A.M.E., are members of P.U.N.C.H. Additional members of P.U.N.C.H. are Sacred Heart Cathedral and Third Missionary Baptist Church. Those churches are unable to participate in the Altar Crawl because of other commitments for their buildings on that date.