In 1853, the First Baptist group was formed. The group did not have a set location during this time, so they conducted their meetings in the Court House and then relocated to a public school. The sawmill industry increased during this time and Williamsport only had a few stores open with a population of 2,000. Furthermore, the group began to look for a permanent site. Herdic had initially made an offer to donate the land on the corner of Elmira and Fourth Street, the church’s current location. However, the group was reluctant to take the property because of the swampy area and its considerable distance from the city. Since they were not able to find another affordable place, they accepted the plot. Herdic allowed them to have the donated land on the condition that this be used for religious gatherings, as stated in the deed. Even to this day, if the area is not mismanaged, the property can be reverted to the current heirs.
In 1860, the First Baptist Church was built for $8,000 (2019= $247,479). Throughout the years, the church encountered two major floods, 1889 and 1894. The last flood damaged the basement severely, preventing people from entering the building safely. The original church had to be torn down, and a new one was built in 1898 by Culver. This church cost $35,000 (2019= $1,082,719), and the architecture was something different compared to other architectural trends of the time.
The exterior of the church embodies Romanesque architecture. The Dark Ages influenced the Romanesque era which began in the 1800s. Buildings of this style have thick walls, a sturdy platform, round arches, and large towers. They are built symmetrical and have little use of sculptures. The church’s interior is based on the Byzantine era. This era focuses on depicting heaven, the Spirit, and roofed domes. The church has 39 stained-glassed windows representing Protestant and Baptist teachers and ministers instead of saints. The Wooden beams are part of the last wooden bridge on Market Street from the beginning of the twentieth century. Also, the Austin Organ in the church is one of the oldest pipe organs still properly functioning in Lycoming County.
Today, the First Baptist Church is known as the City Alliance Church, which is a local congregation of the Christian & Missionary Alliance. They began in 2012 with their first gathering for Bible study in Alabaster Coffee Roaster & Tea Company. They relocated to Thaddeus Stevenson Primary School, Williamsport YMCA, and eventually returned to Alabaster Coffee Roaster & Tea Company. In 2015, the group entered into a partnership with the First Baptist Church. Besides being a place of worship, they offer support to organizations such as THRIVE International Programs, Family Promise, and Expectations Women’s Center. THRIVE International Programs offer Spanish and ESL classes, immigration legal assistance, and the opportunity to be integrated into the community. Family Promise helps with disadvantaged families that are struggling with homelessness. Expectation Women’s Center helps mothers who struggle with parenting or finding resources.
Peter Herdic donated the land for the First Baptist Church between Elmira and Fourth Street. The location was not desired at first by the group, but eventually, they accepted Herdic’s offer. The church suffered two significant floods that led to building a new church by Culver with Romanesque and Byzantine architecture. Today the church is known as the City Alliance Church who desires to help and support other organizations to build a stronger community in Williamsport.