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Mount Olive AME Church // The purpose is always God

Published Nov. 29, 2006

Address: 600 Jones St., Clearwater

The building: The church was established in 1894 in a wooden house just north of the church's current site. Early on, it was known as Hope Henry AME Church and was one of only two churches in Clearwater serving the black community. A stone building was constructed at 600 Jones St. between 1913 and 1914, featuring eight stained-glass panels each on the north and south walls and three on the west wall above the choir and pulpit. The 2,600-square-foot church's stone walls were heavily damaged by a hurricane in 1926. It was rebuilt that year and renamed Mount Olive AME Church. The exterior is white stucco. Its bell tower hasn't pealed for more than 50 years, but the church hopes to restore it. Inside, the high ceiling and the walls from floor to chair rails are dark wood. Carpeting covers the original wood floor. The dome-shaped wood ceiling above the choir is painted white. In 1994, a large multipurpose building was added to the west side of the church, and a building beside the addition was purchased for use as church offices and educational programs. Church secretary and historian Helen Bowens spent two years doing research for the National Register of Historic Places nomination. It was officially listed in February 2000.

Current use: The church has an active congregation of 485. The first white members were Canadians - a couple who wintered in Clearwater for many years in the 1930s. The Rev. Ronald E. Williams has served the church for two years. The church's Web site is

A memory: "The train track went right along in front of our building, and when the train came by, we would just have to shut down, it made so much noise with the big steam engine," the late P.G. Rowe, then 80, told the St. Petersburg Times in 1995. Today, the Pinellas Trail has replaced the track. A second track a block east of the church is still in use.

What we like: The handsome wood pulpit, hand-carved about 1913 by church member William Buchanan, with spindle legs, decorative work and handy compartments. The two beautiful, large stained-glass windows at the back of the church, each in memory of a member.