St. James the Less Baltimore
St. James Church (Heilige Jakobus)-Catholic
History of Baltimore City & County; John Thomas Scharf, 1881, J.B. Lippencott & Company, publishers, Philadelphia PA.
The old St. James church was located at the corner of Eager and Aisquith Sts. It was build at the direction of Archbishop Whitfield and the cornerstone laid in 1833. It was used by English speaking Catholics. When ground was broken to build the German Catholic church, St. Alphonsus, the Germans needed a place to worship and Archbishop Eccleston granted them the use of St. James’, which from that time forward remained in their possession.
The Redemptorist fathers resided at this church from 1841-1847, when the Sisters of Notre Dame purchased the property to erect a mother-house for their order. It soon became a school for girls. The fathers of St. Alphonsus’ church took charge of St. James’ until the erection of the present St. Michael’s church.
A larger church was needed so a church designed by George Frederick was build, the cornerstone being laid on October 22, 1865. This was located at Eager and Aisquith Streets. The church building measured 184 feet by 80 feet, 60 feet high and had a seating capacity of 1800. The church was decorated with beautiful marble, frescoes by Hilary Froehlich and rich art and wood work.
As soon as the Redemptorist had taken charge, a parochial school was established in the basement of the church. Before the new church was built, a large school building was erected on Somerset Street above Eager. The cornerstone was laid on May 5, 1864. Another similar building was erected on Aisquith Street in 1878. The children were taught by the Sisters of Notre Dame and the Marian Brothers. The average attendance at the time was 900.
St. James the Less Roman Catholic Church, also known as St. James and St. John's Roman Catholic Church. It is a High Victorian Gothic influenced brick structure with Romanesque Revival overtones built 1865-67. It has a tall central tower and featured an ornate interior with marble sculpture and murals. The church is 184 feet long, 65 feet wide, and the ceiling is 51 feet from the floor. The steeple, at 256 feet, is the second tallest church tower in the city. The cross surmounting the spire, is 10 feet tall. There is a peal of four bells in the tower, the largest weighing 5000 pounds, cast by McShane of Baltimore, in 1885. The tower clock was installed during the same year. The magnificent and priceless 25 foot-high Mayer windows were installed in 1891. The church is an early work of George A. Frederick (1842-1924), a prolific and prominent architect in Baltimore who designed buildings of all types mainly in the Baltimore area. The interior features three large interior murals painted about 1886 by the German-born artist William Lamprecht and marble sculpture work by the Baltimore sculptor Joseph Martin Didusch. In 1966, the neighbouring parish of St. John the Evangelist was closed, and the new parish of St. James and St. John, was formed, the congregation worshipping at St. James. The parish was dissolved around 1986, and the former St. James Church was sold to an evangelical church. Most regrettably, the church has been stripped of its windows, altars, marble communion rail, pipe organ, and other artifacts, and the church has been whitewashed, destroying its beautiful and historic murals. Maryland Archive files M1572-M1576 and internment records are at the Archdiocese of Baltimore Catholic Archives. There is an index.
When on a photo journey, photos were taken of St. James, which is now the ‘Urban Bible Fellowship Church’.
St. James the Less Roman Catholic Church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
The church suffered severe damage on March 28, 2020 as a resulting of a lightning strike to the landmark steeple.
The Superiors of St. James’
Rev. Lawrence Holzer 1865-1868
Rev. Thaddeus Anwander 1868-1871
Rev. John Hespelein 1871-1877
Rev. Henry Danenhauer 1877
Internment records from 1857 until 1930, are housed at the Archdiocese of Baltimore Catholic Archives. An index for the internment records from 1868-1929 can be found in REF A-2-6 in the Archives' library. In 1966 the Parish merged with St. John the Evangelist to become St. James/St. John's. Both parishes closed in 1986. M1572-M1576