Roger Williams founded the church congregation in 1638 shortly after he founded Providence in 1636. Arminian in tone, it soon became what is now called a Free Will Baptist church. William Wickenden, a colonial dissident, served as one of the first ministers of the church, and nearby Wickenden Street took his name. For the first sixty years the church met in congregants' homes. In 1700 Reverend Pardon Tillinghast built the first church building, a 400-square-foot (37 m2) structure, on Smith and North Main Streets, and the congregation built the second meetinghouse nearby in 1726.
The congregation built the current meeting house in 1775 under the leadership of James Manning on the site of a disused apple orchard. Following The Reverend Manning's tenure, founding president of the University of South Carolina, Reverend Jonathan Maxcy served as pastor until 1792. The meeting house has served as the site of Brown University's commencement site for all but two Brown Commencements since 1776. Brown was founded by Baptist colonists from Rhode Island. The building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966. The steeple of the current meeting house has a unique history. Due to the closure of the Boston ports following the Boston Tea Party of 1775, out-of-work ship-builders were invited from Boston to Providence to raise the steeple. It took a mere three days.
This collection is online since 2009