ENGLEWOOD — The Lemon Bay Historical Society invites the public to revisit the early morning one-mile journey of the 90-year-old Green Street Church from West Green Street to the Lemon Bay Cemetery on State Road 776.
The Historical Society members will narrate the newly created “Moving the Church in the Middle of the Night” slide show documenting the church’s relocation. The presentation is set for 6 p.m. Jan. 25 in the sanctuary of the Englewood United Methodist Church, 700 E. Dearborn St. John Tuff and Friends will perform traditional country-western standards.
Donations will be “gratefully accepted,” since the Historical Society is still working to get the church settled and reopened at its new location, its “forever home.”
While it’s not a midnight ride of Paul Revere, the effort to save the church is a tale of how Englewood is saving one of its historic landmarks.
Saving the past
The historic church served was Englewood’s first house of worship.
Englewood’s Methodist congregation constructed the building in 1928 at the corner of Green and Magnolia streets. In 1962, the congregation built a larger sanctuary and de-sanctified the wooden building, moving it to face Green Street.
The Historical Society took over the old building in 1988. It was restored in 1997-98. While it no longer celebrates religious ceremonies, the building has been a center for Historical Society and other community events, marriages and memorial services.
For years, the Historical Society leased the property on which it sat from the Crosspoint Church of the Nazarene. But that agreement ended in 2016, when the Historical Society had to decide whether to demolish or save the structure.
Despite facing a herculean fundraising effort, the nonprofit Historical Society board took it upon itself to move the church. The members purchased property at the historic Lemon Bay Cemetery.
On Sept. 11 last year, in the early morning hours, R.E. Johnson & Sons movers lifted the 90-year-old church onto a trailer, tied down it down securely and inched it from West Green Street to the south side of the cemetery fronting on South Indiana Avenue (State Road 776). The 1.1-mile journey took most of the night.
As the sun came up, workers slid and shimmied the church onto temporary supports at its permanent home.
In October, the steeple, which had been remove prior to its move, was placed back atop of the church.
The Historical Society members now see the church safe on its “forever property” for future generations. But that doesn’t mean their work is done.
A work still in progress
“We’re still waiting for final numbers,” board member Esther Horton said of the total cost of the project.
Leo Pfliger Construction, an Englewood contractor, is riding point on the project. The site planning is still being developed.
“We’re finishing up with (Sarasota County) permitting, and I don’t believe there’s any other new permitting required,” Horton said.
A lot of work is still pending. The Historical Society doesn’t know if it will be required to build a grass, shell or paved parking lot. It does know it will need to build sidewalks, provide handicapped parking, lighting and county-required landscaping.
The costs for the entire project could exceed $200,000. The Historical Society has collected $170,000 in grants and donations for the church.
Fortunately, besides donations from individuals, the Historical Society received grants from the Sarasota County Alliance for Historical Preservation and William G. and Marie Selby Foundation. Sarasota County commissioners agreed with the Englewood Community Redevelopment Area Advisory Board to commit $50,000 to the move and provide an additional $50,000 as a matching, reimbursement grant.
For more information, visit lemonbayhistory.com or call 941-473-8491. Donations for the church can be made online or mailed to Lemon Bay Historical Society, P.O. Box 1245, Englewood FL 34295.