Tuesday, May 14, 2013

First Congregational Church of Melbourne to Receive Historical Marker

This Friday beginning at 4pm the First Congregational Church of Melbourne, now known as His Place Ministries, located at the corner of Harbor City Blvd. and Strawbridge will host a program to celebrate the installation of a historic marker naming the church as a Florida Heritage Site.

Although meetings and bible studies had been held since 1887, on December 6, 1889 the five men and seven women listed below became charter members by signing the covenant, which was the first step in creating the church.

Mr. Edward P. Branch            Mrs. John H. Phillips
Mrs. Abbie S. Branch              Mrs. A. O. Phillips
Mr. John R. Lyman                 Mr. Grant Sherbon
Mrs. Harriet M. Lyman           Mrs. Amanda Thomas
Miss Cordelia March              Mrs. Mable Nash Stewart
Dr. A. E. Lyman                      Mr. Louis Lyman

In 1892 the memebers signed a contract with Mr. R. J. Anderson for the construction of the church which ultimately cost $2,442.12. Worship service in the sanctuary began in July of 1893 and by the time the dedication ceremony was held on March 18, 1894 the bills pertaining to the new building had all been paid off! As you can see from this photo from the early 1900s the building that emerged from this construction was a white clapboard structure with a steeply pitched gabled roof with a three story bell tower on the east side.

The church continued to grow over the years attracting local members as well as numerous winter visitors. Its location on a major road and near the tourist hotels and railroad station attracted so many people that the church was sometimes referred to as the "Tourist Church" and "The Wayside Church." New pews were added in 1911 and wiring for electricity was added in 1915.

The Florida land boom of the 1920's added more members and visitors to the church as well as additions to all four sides of the structure in the popular Mediterranean Revival style of the day. This construction was being completed as the economy crashed in 1929. While membership dwindled throughout the depression the church's prospects were brightened with the construction of the Melbourne and  Bananna River Naval Stations in the 1940s and the coming of the Space Program. This increased membersip also led to the last major expansion of the structure with the addition of an education annex of 3,900 square feet, stained glass windows and the installation of air conditioning.

Circa 1930s

An ever growing Congregation led to the purchase of land in Palm Bay for the construction of a new church building and the original building was sold in 2000 to a new and promising congregation called His Place Ministries, thereby solidifying its physical and spiritual use to the present day.
Special Thanks to Brevard Historical Commissioner Ann Downing for her research on the church's history and for putting together the application that made this marker possible.