The oldest surviving Baptist church building in America, The Seventh Day Baptist Meeting House boasts a beautifully carved pulpit and interior paneling. The meeting house was constructed in 1730 by Richard Munday on Barney Street, and can now be seen as part of the Newport Historical Society’s building.
The first Baptist church in Newport was founded in 1644 by John Clarke. Several years later, a group of 7th Day Baptists (celebrating the Sabbath on Saturday) separated from Clarke’s church. In its early years this congregation met in a building at Green End, but as the congregation grew land on Barney Street was purchased for the purpose of building a new church. The building was erected in 1730 and was considered to be one of the finest colonial interiors in Rhode Island. The ceiling is vaulted and composed of curved oak tie beams. The walls are made of carved paneling; the unusual pulpit is wine glass-shaped and similar to the one in nearby Trinity Church. The balusters on the stairs leading to the pulpit exhibit exquisitely detailed woodcarving. The congregation was always diverse; African-Americans occupied pews in the east gallery and Native Americans are listed in the church records. After the Revolution, however, many members of the congregation moved away and services were abandoned at the church in the mid-19th century. During the Civil War, the church was used by the Shiloh Baptist congregation, which was primarily African-American.
The grand reopening of the newly-restored Seventh Day Baptist Meeting House was celebrated the summer of 2009, in conjunction with a rare clothing exhibit, From Homespun to High Fashion.
This restoration project was funded by grants from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission, and the Seventh Day Baptist Historical Society.