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St. Peter's Episcopal Cathedral in St. Petersburg pairs preserving, razing

The facade of the former First Baptist Church, which shows neoclassical influence in its columns, will be saved.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times (2008)

The facade of the former First Baptist Church, which shows neoclassical influence in its columns, will be saved.

ST. PETERSBURG

St. Peter's Episcopal Cathedral has taken the next step toward demolishing a large section of the historic former Baptist sanctuary it owns downtown.

The sanctuary's imposing neoclassical facade will be saved.

Sheree Graves, St. Peter's senior warden, said cathedral officials have submitted a certificate of appropriateness to the city for demolition of the back end of the old church, along with architectural renderings for work that will be done to the sections that remain.

"The exposed part that faces the west needs to be renovated, and we're putting in an urban peace garden'' with a fountain and gazebo that will be open to the public, she said.

The area will also be used for an ecumenical columbarium that will serve as a revenue stream for the cathedral, Graves said. The cathedral's memorial garden for members is located in another area of the property, she said.

For years, preservationists opposed the razing of the former Baptist sanctuary. Members of St. Petersburg Preservation now endorse St. Peter's plan to save just a section of the building at 120 Fourth St. N.

Besides the columned facade, the cathedral is saving a 40-foot-deep section of the building that will include sidewalls, roof and stair towers that rise into the balcony.

Preservationists have asked that St. Peter's make a professional archival record of the building. Graves said that's being done and that a historical exhibit will be set up in one of the stair towers.

"We're also going to be using some of the brick to create the external garden walls as well as a labyrinth,'' she said.

The undertaking will be part of St. Peter's $7.5-million expansion and redevelopment project, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2009.

St. Peter's bought the closed First Baptist Church and its five-story education building for $1-million in 1990. Over the years, it has made several unsuccessful attempts to develop or sell the property.

Early this year, neighbors of the old church, the owners of the Princess Martha Hotel, signed an agreement to buy the old Baptist church for $1.1-million.

Philanthropist and businessman William R. Hough, an investor with WRH Income Properties, said then that the Princess Martha, now an independent living facility, needed to raze the church to expand. When preservationists objected, Princess Martha's owners decided not to go ahead with the purchase.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at wmoore@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2283.

St. Peter's Episcopal Cathedral in St. Petersburg pairs preserving, razing 12/27/08 [Last modified: Saturday, December 27, 2008 3:31am]
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