Historical records indicate that the original structure located at what is now 1029 East Baltimore Street was a home built for publisher William Pechin in 1807. After decades as a private residence, in 1874, it became the Kelso Home for Orphans of the Methodist Episcopal Church. From 1889 to 1897, the building served as the German Branch of the YMCA, with alterations including a new gymnasium (the Mission’s famous hardwood maple “chapel floor”). Soon after, the building was raised to its present four stories and was known as Philanthropy Hall, a public meeting place. Purchased and refurbished again in 1909, it became the largest Hebrew day school in Baltimore – the Baltimore Talmud Torah – serving, at one time, as many as 1500 students. In the late 1920’s it served a short time as the Baltimore Conservatory of Music and was then renovated with a façade addition in 1930. as the Workmen’s Circle Lyceum (a club promoting socialism and Yiddish culture). Helping Up Mission bought the property in 1955 and it has housed our programs for over 50 years.
For many years emergency overnight guests and new members of our Spiritual Recovery Program slept on mattresses on that chapel floor. It was a very humbling experience for many – finding themselves sleeping on a mattress in the floor of a rescue mission! But more than one guy has said to me how important that experience was to his recovery and his spiritual life.
While our present renovation called for the building to be demolished, right down through the basement, the building’s façade was preserved and restored to its 1930 appearance. In the demolition, many pieces of the hardwood maple chapel floor were saved and, over the past few months, Helping Up Mission graduates and program members have designed and constructed a huge Cross from that old floor. Soon-to-graduate Mike designed the Cross, while he, Richard and graduate staff Danny cut and fit pieces of the old floor into a 13 x 8 foot Cross.
Although the building is still a month away from being completely finished, we needed the construction company’s equipment to be able to hang it on the wall. Last Friday, the Cross was hung on the east wall of the new lobby of 1029 East Baltimore Street. Some of the staff went in and we had a dedication prayer.
Kevin, our architect’s staff designer, had written something about our Cross. We found his words to be so appropriate to our sentiments about the chapel floor Cross, that we are going to have it written on the wall next to it.
“As this golden wood has borne the bodies and souls of your brother before you – so, too, shall the Lord carry you forward on the road to recovery and salvation.”
Helping Up Mission is a place where a guy can go to find hope, answers, change and transformation. For us, it starts and ends with the Cross.
Pastor Gary Byers
Spiritual Life Director