The Old Mount Carmel Baptist Church has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, gaining formal recognition of the property’s historic significance as a cultural and architectural resource to the State of Florida.
Constructed in 1944, the church building, located at 429 NW Fourth Street, is a significant community asset for many reasons including its distinctive Late Gothic Revival architecture. It long has been a cultural centerpiece among Gainesville’s African American community for its historical significance as a religious and social gathering place during the civil rights movement (1944-1970). Dr. Thomas A. Wright (1920-2014), former reverend of Mount Carmel Church, and president of the Alachua County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), worked during the era to help desegregate the Alachua County school system.
Pastor Gerard Duncan of Prayers By Faith Family Ministries, whose congregation worships at Old Mount Carmel Baptist Church, says the efforts of community partners were crucial to its placement on the national register.
“The Prayers By Faith Family Ministries congregation, along with the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, would like to thank for their support: the Florida Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee; the historic preservation staff at the Florida Division of Historical Resources; the Honorable Lauren Poe and the Gainesville City Commission; the Honorable Ken Cornell and the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners; and the City of Gainesville’s Department of Sustainable Development for working to make this designation a reality,” said Pastor Duncan.
The City of Gainesville was awarded a $50,000 Small Matching Grant from the state’s Division of Historical Resources for a rehabilitation and adaptive use plan for the church. Preserving and celebrating Gainesville history, heritage and Black culture is part of the City’s strategic plan to keep Gainesville as a great place for neighbors to live and thrive.
“The funding will be used toward digital documentation of the historic building, a conditions assessment and schematic rehabilitation plan, and the gathering of oral histories to support the congregation’s mission,” said Department of Sustainable Development Director Andrew Persons.
“Old Mt. Carmel’s history as a center for civil rights activism in Gainesville is emblematic of this building’s significance to the community, both historically and currently. We look forward to our partnership with Pastor Duncan and his congregation to assist with plans for continuous and future use as a community hub for social justice,” said Cleary Larkin, acting director of UF’s Historic Preservation program.
The project runs through June 30, 2022 and will be a collaborative partnership between Prayers By Faith Ministries, Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, UF’s Historic Preservation program and the City of Gainesville. Follow the project website for information on upcoming events and updates: https://www.saveoldmountcarmel.org/