Thirteen people organized First Baptist Church of Springfield in early 1836, when the city had a population of about two thousand people. Without benefit of a minister for the first six months, the congregation worshiped regularly, administered communion and baptized several members. In 1844, the congregation purchased a lot on the northeast corner of High and Limestone Streets (center of the city) where they constructed a basement that served as the worship center for six years. The congregation completed the building and began worshiping there in 1852.
Thirty years later the church sold the property and purchased a lot at 638 South Fountain Avenue, where the present building stands. The congregation dedicated a new building on this site in 1882. The church added a functional educational wing in 1954.
First Baptist church presently sits in a transitional urban neighborhood known as the South Fountain Avenue Historic District. This area of the city developed in the years from 1850 to 1910–a time of tremendous growth and industrial prosperity in Springfield when many upper-level managers, professionals, and industrial and business leaders build homes in this area. In the early 1960s, after several years of deliberation over whether to renovate, relocate, or rebuild, the congregation voted to remain at the current location, retain the educational wing, demolish the 1882 structure and build a new worship center. This was a courageous decision given the urban neighborhood in which the church remained. Other churches on the “south side” of Springfield, decided to move to more affluent parts of the city where they felt more comfortable and safe. The current worship center was occupied in December 1978.
One enters the worship center, a modified-Gothic structure, through a spacious narthex. The sanctuary seats 260 people with a center aisle and sloping floor allowing every person an excellent view of the chancel area. A beautiful mosaic of the Descending Dove highlights the baptistery, elevated behind the chancel. The Hook and Hastings pipe organ and a piano sit to the right and left of the chancel. The architect successfully connected the older educational wing with the newer worship center, aesthetically merging the two buildings into one unit. The builders incorporated light fixtures and portions of the stained glass windows from the 1882 building into the new worship center.