History of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church

History of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church – Jacksonville, Florida
Original St. Philip's Building before the fire of 1901
Original view of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church before the Great Jacksonville fire of 1901
About 1872, the Rev. Brook G. White, an inspired catalyst, and the Rt. Rev. John Freeman Young, Bishop of the Diocese of Florida, organized and established a mission to serve the Black population. This mission became St. Philip’s Episcopal Church. With donations from the community, property was purchased at the corner of Union and Cedar (now Pearl) Streets, and a small frame church was erected. A rectory was also constructed with funds given by the wife of Fr. White. Initially, St. John’s Church supported the mission providing priests and lay readers for the services. To enhance the growth of the mission, a kindergarten was started in the rectory. This school attracted students from families throughout the city. Increased membership created a need for a larger church. The smaller church was “moved” from the corner to allow for the larger structure.
On November 22, 1900, The Rt. Rev. Edwin G. Weed laid the cornerstone for a larger facility. The original frame church was moved back to allow construction of the new church in the original consecrated landmark. On May 3, 1901 the wooden frame church and the rectory were destroyed in the Great Jacksonville fire of 1901. A parishioner, Mamie Ewart Port, who lived nearby, rushed to the church and retrieved several of the brass pieces and communion vessels, some of which are in use today. The fire brought the St. Philip’s building project to an abrupt standstill. As the city recovered, so did St. Philip’s. It took several years to rebuild the church because of the “pay-as-you-go” plan the members chose. The sanctuary reflects the late Gothic Revival style which was the most popular religious architecture at the turn of the century. Five years after the fire, on July 29, 1906, Bishop Weed preached in the new and rebuilt St. Philip’s Church. Services began in the present structure with no windows, pews or electricity. Straight chairs were used for seating, lamplights for seeing, and a pot bellied wood stove for heating. By 1917, the altar was rebuilt, the chancel furnished, vesting rooms added, gas heating installed, and a pipe organ was purchased. In the early 1950’s the church was rewired. Kitchen equipment was installed in the basement, which was the center of parish fellowship and Christian Education activities. The parish auditorium and classrooms were constructed in the early 1960’s.

In 1926, with The Rev. Willoughby M. Parchment as the assigned priest, the St. Philip’s Mission applied for and received status as an independent parish. However, during the financial hardship of the depression, the parish reverted to a mission and was served by several priests. The Rev. Toussaaint Vincent Harris came to the mission in 1953 and parish status was regained in 1960. It was during Fr. Harris’ tenure that the Advent Corporate Communion and Breakfast was initiated as an annual event. Fr. Harris also organized the Bishop Delaney Guild, for women’s ministries.

The rich legacy of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church and her members continues to inspire the hearts of the community in downtown Jacksonville. Since 1882 our consecrated landmark has been a nucleus where we aspire to become a fellowship of servants of Jesus Christ in sharing God’s love through sacraments, worship, education, evangelism, and pastoral care.

Feature here: A Few of the St. Philip's Church Bricklayers
Feature here: A Few of the St. Philip’s Church Bricklayers
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Sit Down with the Architect of St. Philip’s A Downtown Landmark: St. Philips Episcopal The Reverend Absalom Jones, 1746-1818
(Ft. on Jax Historical Society) (Featured on Metro Jacksonville) (Featured on Episcopal Archives)
An Interview with Miss Henrietta C. Dozier Jacksonville’s first and foremost female architect… Learn More It was the first African American Episcopal Church in the city, for one. Its founder, Freeman Young, was a character who stepped straight out of the adventure tales of the 19th Century.. Learn More Absalom Jones was America’s first black priest. Born into slavery in Delaware at a time when slavery was being debated as immoral, he taught himself to read… Learn More
john young port
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