Charles W. Baldwin Hall was built in 1861 as the Cross Roads Methodist Episcopal Church at the southwest corner of the Severn Cross Roads (where the Stone Church, the present Baldwin Memorial United Methodist Church, was later erected in 1895-96). As the second Church to stand on that site, the Hall replaced the earlier frame Church of 1817 that had been erected jointly by the Protestant Episcopalians and the Methodists, and which was movef to the Cecil (later the Childs) farm, near Millersville Road and Cecil Avenue, when the Church of 1861 was built.
The Hall is heir to the even earlier religious tradition of the Puritan settlers at the "Head of the Severn" commuunity: for forty years prior to 1817, the Methodists had conducted religious services in a room that was added by John Sewell to his ancient residence, "Brooksbys Point" ( still standing near present-day Door's Corner), where , as early as 1777, Bishop Francis Asbury has preached, often while sitting astride a desk or on a chest of drawers (still in existence) which sat in that room, to which he was elevated when he was unable to stand, because his body had stiffened with age and had become cramped from his long rides on horseback as the "Prophet of the Long Road". Even earlier, in 1730, a chapel for the use of the inhabitants of St. Anne's Parish west of Annapolis had been built nearby on Severn Chapel Road (at a location at the front of the present-day Forney farm which is now marked with a stone Cross). Sometimes called "Hammonds Chapel", this Chapel (offically called Severn Chapel) fell into disuse and decay during and after the American Revolution. Between 1817 and 1840, the two congregations worshipped amicably (on alternating Sundays) in the first Cross Roads Church. In 1840, the Episcopalians erected St. Stephens Church and withdrew from the Church at Severn Cross Roads, selling their interests there (for $100.00) in 1861 to the Methodists, who had purchased, in 1841, as the Severn Circuit parsonage, the former Gambrill home (next to the Church site), most of which still stands, having been moved about 1920 across General's Highway to "Bunker Hill" farm (where it has been used ever since as the resident farmers dwelling).
The Sunday school at the Cross Roads was organized on June 7, 1835, and first met in the 1817 Church. About 1840 or earlier, the Methodists erected a one-room (two story) Sunday school building which stood on "Bunker Hill" farm at the southwest corner of the Cross Roads. This school house was later moved (about 1835) across General's Highway to a location on the northeast side of Indian Landing Road where it stood until about 1935. For many years this little building served as a one-room elementary school house for Millersville until the first Millersville consolidated school was built in the early 1920's.
In 1895, construction began on the present Stone Church after th Church of 1861 was first moved across Indian Landing Road to the north side of land donated for that purpose by Mrs. N.J.B. Morgan (whose husband had presided over the troubled fortunes of the Baltimore Annual Conference during the Civil War), a sister of Dr. Charles W. Baldwin. From that time until the present Summerfield Baldwin, Jr. Educational Building, fronting on the General's Highway, was consecrated on September 20, 1970, the Church of 1861 - served as a combination Church Sunday School building, congregation hall, and community hall.
Wedding receptions, Church suppers, community meetings, and numerous plays and entertainments all took place within its walls. Between 1947 and about 1960 it served as the resident theater for the South Shore Dramatic Club, Inc. Following its disuse in the 1970's by the Church, the Hall was again used on a regular basis for theatrical productions by the Severn Cross Roads Concert Theater, Inc.
On June 2, 1981, in the presence of a large throng of community residents and descendnts of families whose forbearers had worshipped and attended Sunday School in it, and who had participated in its first move in 1895 and in its enlargment in 1934-35, Charles W. Baldwin Hall was safely and successfully moved by the Severn Cross Roads Foundation, Inc., across Old General's Highway to its new and final site at this present location, where it now securely rests on a new and prepared foundation - basement, standing proudly on a two acre site where once stood the eighteenth century "Warfields Plains" home.
Of all of the various local churches and chapels which were at one time connected to and used by the former Methodist Episcopal denomination in the geographic area served by its old Severn Circuit, it is believed that none are standing today which are older then this one building: Charles W. Baldwin Hall.
The "Warfields Plains" land patent to Richard Warfield in 1681 included, in addition, the original three-quarter acre site of all three of the Churches which were built at Severn Cross Roads, as well as "Bunker Hill" farm. The owner of the entire tract in 1817, Thomas Williams Turner (a descendant of Richard Warfield), in July of that year, from his ancient "Warfields Plains" house (which stood at the front of this two acre residue until about 1961), presented the Deed to the original Trustees from the Methodists and Episcopalians, John Sewell, Matthias Hammond, and Augustine Gambrill, for the 3/4 acre original Church site. From 1830 to 1840 (before the Millersville post office was created ) the old "Warfields Plains" home served as the post office for an area at the Cross Roads which was then called "Brotherton".
Dr. Charles W. Baldwin died on July 15, 1938, in his 98th year, secure in the belief that the future of his beloved colonial Church of 1861 had been resolved and settled in his lifetime. Little could he have realized that more then forty years would elapse before that goal could be achieved.
About 1935, it was moved again, slightly east, to its final location (where it stood until the Church demolished it in 1983), after it had served for a number of years as a Church library. (A set of architectural drawings, showing how the exterior and interior of this School House Building looked, was completed in November 1980, by Historic Annapolis, Inc. Together with a technical written description of its architecture, both documents prepared by Russell Wright, A.I.A., these writings are in existence and on file.)
The Hall - the Church of 1861 - was made possible by William Henry Baldwin and Jane Maria (Woodward) Baldwin, his wife, and thier children -there were seven sons and two daughters - of "Bunker Hill", pillars at that time in the Cross Roads Church, which was a station of the Old Severn (Methodist Episcopal) Circuit. At one time this circuit comprised of ten or more local churches, chapels, and/or preaching places served by one or two circuit-riding clergymen. It included all of central and northern Anne Arundel County (outside of Annapolis) and at one time extended into what is today Howard County. After 1838, the Cross Roads Methodist Episcopal Church was the "home" for the main parsonage of the Circuit.
The building of the Church of 1861 took place during the period which included the First Battle of Bull Run, and its construction was seen as a gesture of good will to a community then badly divided over secession and slavery - issues which divided and diminished the membership of the Baltimore Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church during that
period. In the Church of 1861, the sons of William H. and Jane Maria Baldwin, successful and prominent in business and professional careers, promised one another that they would never allow divisions brought about by the Civil War to interfere with their family and Church ties. In 1866, one of these sons, Charles Winterfield Baldwin, a recent graduate of Yale College, returned to Severn Circuit and the Church of 1861 to begin seventy years as an ordained Methodist minister, which brought him numerous honors and much recognition, including (in 1935) the rededication (after it had been enlarged) of the 1861 Church as the "Charles W. Baldwin Hall and Church School Building."
The builder of the Church of 1861 was William Jones, who was a member of the congregation. By the time the Hall was placed on the National Register of Historic Places during March, 1983, it had been described as a significant example of 19th century country church architecture, a combination of the popular mid-nineteenth century church plan. The molded battens, tiny arches, louvered vent, shutters, and tall arched side windows with clear glass on a rectangular block were described as creative and well executed embellishment of this earlier form.
In 1881, the congregation of the Cross Roads Church voted unanimously to change the name of the Church to "Baldwin Memorial", in memory of William H. and Jane Maria Baldwin, who were then deceased. At that time, the Church became detached from Old Severn Circuit, and the Reverend Lewis A. Thirlkield became the first station pastor.