OUR CHURCH HISTORY
Previous Senior Pastors
Rev. C.W. Latham
Rev. (Major) Augustus E. Barnett
Rev. B. Lowry Bowman
Dr. John E. Abbott
absence as U.S. Army Chaplain
More Than a Century in Sarasota
First Presbyterian Church (FPC) of Sarasota has been serving the community with more than one hundred years in Sarasota. Part of the FPC legacy includes the establishment of seven other churches in the area—Whitfield, Bee Ridge, Pine Shores, Northminster, Church of the Covenant, Christ Church Longboat Key, and Peace Presbyterian.
Since our founding in 1906, five sons of the congregation have become pastors. Three daughters of the congregation have trained in Christian Education at the Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond, Virginia.
1906 First Presbyterian Church of Sarasota was founded on February 16, 1906 by Rev. J.W. Roseborough, a Florida Synod Evangelist, with eleven charter members. Licentiate, Rev. Charles Kingsley had oversight of the infant congregation, which met in the homes of Mrs. M.A. Prime and Mr. K.M. Hebb, two of the early members. Previously-ordained Elder W.M. Grigsby and Deacon K.M. Hebb were the first officers.
The Ladies Aid Society, organized in June 1907 (at the home of Mrs. J.W. Harrison) raised three hundred dollars to buy property on the corner of Orange Avenue and Fifth Street. Trustees K.M. Hebb, R.I. Kennedy and George B. Prime were elected October 8, 1907. On October 6, 1908, five hundred dollars were borrowed from the Home Mission Erection Fund. The cornerstone for the concrete block structure was laid November 22, 1908. The structure was not completed until February 13, 1913. In 1922 the congregation became self-supporting with membership of seventy.
1920s The decision was made early in the 1920s to move the church from its Orange Avenue location. In 1925 the church property was sold for $175,000. The present property at the end of Oak Street was acquired for $30,000. Until a house of worship was erected in 1928 at the cost of $20,000, worship services were held in the Mira-Mar Auditorium, the old Central School auditorium, and the Edward's Theater. The new building was dedicated in February 1929. Membership had grown to three hundred.
1940s First Presbyterian Preschool was established in 1947. The program continues to provide high quality care and education with a 5+ star rating from the Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota County and Gold Seal accreditation.
Previous Senior Pastors (cont.)
Rev. J. Moody McNair
Rev. John H. LaMotte
Rev. Douglas Blair
Rev. C. James Hinch
Dr. Susan Forester DeWyngaert
Previous Associate Pastors
Rev. Robert Ford
Rev. Clayton Thomas
Previous Assistant Ministers
Rev. Paul H. Moehlman
Previous Ministers of Education
Rev. William L. Painter
|1950s In 1950 the current sanctuary was built. In 1954 the congregation voted to relocate the church school section to the East Courtyard at the rear of the original sanctuary, add a second story to the relocated section, air-condition the worship building, and construct a manse south of the Sanctuary. By 1956 in addition to the approximately five hundred members, the church provided services for hundreds of tourists during the winter season. In 1970 a second manse was purchased across the street.
1970s The education and office additions were built in 1976. They were located to the north and west of the original Sanctuary building. At this time the old basement was filled with dirt; the first floor of the original Sanctuary building was converted into Fellowship Hall with a second floor; and an elevator installed. The second floor became the Cowden Library and Conference room.
1990s Renovations were made to the Chancel of the main Sanctuary's interior in 1991 along with the demolition of the south manse to provide room for a new Fellowship Hall, new Courtyard, and Youth Loft. At the same time other remodeling occurred throughout the existing building, a new Parlor and Chapel were created from the former Fellowship Hall.
2000s The Hispanic Ministry was started by Rev. Dr. Nicandro E. Gonzalez on April 22, 2001, with Sunday services in Spanish in the Chapel and opportunities for fellowship throughout the year. After his passing only a few months later his widow, Dr. Iris Gonzalez, continued his vision, and the work of the Hispanic ministry continued.
On February 8, 2008, the Church dedicated a new bell tower, a gift from the Stottlemyer family, which began to be used for weddings, memorial services and as a call to worship.
2010s In May 2014, the church library, located on the second floor of the administrative building, was dedicated and renamed The Cowden-Smith Library in honor of and grateful for the witness of Annabelle Cowden and Natalie Smith who served faithfully as our librarians.
Today, First Presbyterian Church of Sarasota continues to make an impact on the local and global community with a vibrant membership of individuals, couples and families of all ages.