First Presbyterian designated as historical landmark

The First Presbyterian Church has stood the test of time and is basking in its rich history.

DUNEDIN — The First Presbyterian Church has stood the test of time and is basking in its rich history.

Those, in so many words, are some of the comments expressed by city commissioners Oct. 21 about the significance of the church to the community before tentatively approving a historical landmark designation for the church's sanctuary.

Located at 455 Scotland St., the church was built in 1926. Prominent residents Mr. and Mrs. L.B. Skinner of the Skinner Manufacturing Co. contributed $60,000 to the creation of the church and provided the sanctuary and the organ. It was remodeled in 1961.

"It's such a beautiful sanctuary," said Commissioner Deborah Kynes, a member of the church.

Other commissioners had similar comments.

"It's a special place and has a special meaning in history for Dunedin," said Commissioner Moe Freaney.

"I'm tickled pink. I'm so excited about this," said Commissioner Jeff Gow, a church board member.

Over time, Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski said many churches eventually sell their property.

"They try to rework somewhere else and it doesn't work out. The church has stood test of time. The historical designation will help it stand even more of the test of time and give it a protection factor," she said. "It also shows people how special it is to the community."

First Presbyterian Church Pastor David Shelor praised the city's historical preservation process.

He said there is not an attempt to "preserve our history in some plastic perfection as if it's a museum artifact but allow us to have a really living, breathing history that we recognize these roots feed what we are doing today …"

Commissioners expect to give final approval of the designation at their Nov. 4 meeting. They plan to present a commemorative plaque to church representatives at that meeting as well as issuing a proclamation celebrating the church's 150th anniversary.

Also at that meeting, Bujalski told Shelor that commissioners will be asked to take action Nov. 4 so that the 44-acre Gladys Douglas Preserve, which the city recently required, can only be sold through a referendum.

"That's a huge protection factor, and you were such huge supporter in the very early days by coming out — you and your church — by saying we don't care about the money that we might be a benefactor of. We want you to preserve this," Bujalski said. "That really was the first step in igniting the community."

As part of the church's 150th anniversary celebration, on Sunday, Nov. 7, Shelor will arrive by boat at Edgewater Park as did Joseph Brown, the first minister in the area, 150 years ago.

A service at the church will be held at 10:30 a.m. that day, followed by the installation of a "time box," similar to a time capsule, inside the sanctuary and the placement of a historic preservation plaque on the sanctuary's external wall.

In a related matter, commissioners also tentatively approved a historic landmark designation for property as 706 Wood Street.

The structure on the property, about .15 acres, is an early 1920s home in the Tudor architectural style.

It was the residential home of Mr. and Mrs. William C. Neilly.

Neilly spent many years involved working in the community working for the city's zoning committee and as a city commissioner.

In 1972, he sold the structure to Dr. J.A. Mease, who established a 120-bed diagnostic facility that is known today as Mease Dunedin Hospital.

The owner is Joan Morrow, who has added interior decorations and pieces of furniture to her house to reflect the time period.

Commissioners will present a plaque to Morrow Nov. 4 when they expect to give final approval of the designation.

Bujalski praised Kynes for her continued efforts to have more places in the city designated as historical landmarks.

"I just hit the jackpot tonight," Kynes said.