TAMPA - The 72-year-old steeple that for decades has towered above I-275 near the E. Hillsborough Avenue will be demolished after all.
Nashville-based HCA Healthcare purchased the Seminole Heights Baptist Church property in November and announced that the property would become home to a free-standing emergency room for Memorial Hospital of Tampa.
But after hearing how much the church’s steeple means to the community, the hospital operator looked for options to relocate it elsewhere. That included donating it to Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe.
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for Memorial said that moving the steeple is no longer a possibility.
“After a thorough evaluation and expert consultation, it was determined that relocating the steeple is not practical and would actually be unsafe,” spokesperson Cindy Cucuz wrote in an email. “We are committed to the community of Seminole Heights and understand the importance of preserving the history of the church. As a result, we are working in partnership with interested members of the community in exploring options to preserve the legacy of the steeple.”
Demolition of the 50,000-square-foot brick structure is ongoing.
Cucoz wrote that they “anticipate the steeple portion of the building will come down closer to the end of the month.”
The church building at 801 E. Hillsborough Ave was erected in 1949 and served as home to Seminole Heights Baptist Church until early 2020. The church sold the 3.5-acre property to HCA for $6.9 million.
Via text, Ellie Baggett of the Southeast Seminole Heights Civic Association said her group “is saddened to hear of the loss of” what they consider to be a “historic landmark. We hope the new developers of the property are willing to work with the neighbors to be sure we build a relationship that will benefit the entire community.”