This lovely church symbolizes the tenacity of the pioneers in the Village of Manatee. Construction began in 1887 but halted when a yellow fever epidemic claimed the lives of the pastor and many in the congregation. But the community persevered. Two years later, the church opened to house the first Christian congregation south of Tampa on the Florida mainland.
The 1887 Church was located 2-1/2 blocks north of this site and was a place of worship for 85 years. Donated by the Manatee United Methodist Church, it was moved here in 1975 and restored as a U.S. Bicentennial preservation project. This was the beginning of Manatee Village Historical Park. Enter the church under the triangular stained glass transom that signifies the Trinity. The colored panes match the small panes in the windows throughout the building. As you enter the church, the original lectern is on your right. It has been shortened to accommodate guest books for weddings and other special events held here. Opposite the lectern is a photographic enlargement of the window commemorating the nine charter members of the first congregation.
The vaulted ceiling resembles the canopy found in many early churches. The turnbuckle bars were added soon after the church opened because the 30-foot-tall ceiling caused the walls to spread. All around, you’ll see pews with names on them. These pews are the original pews that were used in this church. During restoration, they were retrieved from area churches. Also original is the stained glass star window over the altar. Early Protestant churches called it the “Star of Creation,” the symbol of the Sabbath. The six-pointed star, one of the oldest Christian symbols, is also a Jewish symbol, known as the “Star of David.”
The pulpit chairs are early 1900s vintage. Many items, including the wall sconces, altar rails, altar table, and pulpit are handcrafted replicas of the originals. Either side of the alter leads into a wedding “ready room.” Ready rooms are typically used by couples just before their wedding ceremony. To the right of the altar is the artifacts room, which houses a display of memorabilia from this church’s past. This ready room is sometimes used by the groom. The ready room to the left of the altar is sometimes used as the bride’s room. Modern brides primp in this room much as pioneer brides did more than 100 years ago. The church remains a consecrated house of worship and frequently hosts weddings, baptisms, memorial services, club meetings, and other private events. CLICK HERE to learn more about our venue rental options.
1887 Church Exterior, 2022
1887 Church Interior, 2022