Episcopal Church at Winter Park

 

The Episcopal Church can trace its early beginnings back to this small church in Winter Park. Since its beginnings in the 1800ís, the church has stood as a pillar of the Episcopal community in Central Florida.

 

In 1884, the first railroad line connecting the Florida coasts opened up new opportunities for citrus development. A group of English settlers founded the town of Acton between Lake Parker and Lake Bonny and built an Episcopal church, which they called "All Saints" on what is today East Gary Road. The small community failed and dispersed after the freeze of 1890 ruined its economy and the little church was closed for three years.

 

However, after serving there on a monthly basis for five years before the freeze closed the church, the Rev. John H. Weddell, who was serving in Thonotosassa, was unwilling to see the mission die.

episcopal church, winter park

He obtained permission from Bishop Weed in 1892 to move the little building to the corner of Lemon and Massachusetts Avenues in nearby Lakeland. The Rev. Weddell moved to Lakeland in 1892 and the tiny Episcopal community began to grow. When he retired in 1914, he had served a total of 27 years as vicar. On his retirement, the mission was designated as a self-supporting parish, the Rev. Richard Bolton was named rector, and a rectory was built behind the church. The Rev. John B. Curtis who oversaw construction of an education building to accommodate the growing number of programs serving the church and community succeeded Rev. Bolton in 1916.

In the 1950ís, it became evident that Lakeland held great growth potential and that the Episcopalian community was growing beyond what one location could accommodate. The new rector, the Rev. Clifton H. White, expanded upon existing plans for a satellite Sunday School further south in the city, and the mission parish of St. David's was born. The father of a large family, the Rev. White decided to move to a house off site and have the old rectory demolished to make way for a youth hall. This was completed in 1961 and hosted an ever-expanding series of youth events. As the parish continued to prosper, a new pipe organ was added, and the front porch was enclosed in glass. Father White served All Saints' for 25 years, the longest serving rector of the parish. The All Saints Episcopal Church has now become not only a historical landmark for the State of Florida, but for the Episcopal faith as well.