Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Pinellas

Restored church opens in Tarpon Springs

The Unitiarian Universalist Church opens to the public after a six-year restoration project.
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Tarpon Springs, at 230 Grand Blvd., has reopened to the public following a six-year restoration effort that started as a sinkhole repair in 2013. [Jeff  Rosenfield]
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Tarpon Springs, at 230 Grand Blvd., has reopened to the public following a six-year restoration effort that started as a sinkhole repair in 2013. [Jeff Rosenfield]
Published Oct. 17, 2019

TARPON SPRINGS — The Unitarian Universalist Church of Tarpon Springs officially opened its doors to the public last week following a six-year restoration project that began as a sinkhole repair in 2013.

Officials for Tarpon’s oldest church, a sanctuary for people of all faiths at 230 Grand Blvd., said the work to repair three sinkholes discovered just before Thanksgiving quickly turned into a nightmare of epic proportions featuring everything from drainage issues to termite problems.

“One problem made us aware of the other,” the Rev. Bob Murphy, the church’s chaplain, said as guests filed into the renovated cathedral last month. “It really became quite a mess.”

The majestic building, tucked back on the corner of Grand Boulevard and Read Street, reopened to the congregation in May, revealing a gorgeously restored sanctuary featuring natural wood floors, large, arched windows and a rare collection of paintings by the great American landscape painter George Inness Jr.

“This building was built in 1908, and in 1918 a hurricane damaged it and knocked the windows out,” Murphy said. “Mr. Inness put up some of his paintings to cover the damage, and over the years, they added more to the collection to get it to where it is today, with 11 of his works.”

After receiving permission in 2015 from the city’s Heritage Preservation Board, the building committee reinstalled windows in the historic sanctuary that had been closed for more than 100 years.

The church’s president, Kathy Hopkins, who also served on the building committee, said, “Walking in, I immediately felt this peacefulness, with the beauty and the light. It was truly a spiritual feeling that this is a calm, safe place. It was very rewarding and very unexpected. It sent chills down my spine.”

Murphy acknowledged it would’ve been easy for the church to either fold up shop or relocate in the wake of the forced closure that saw the congregation bounce around from the Tarpon Springs Elks Lodge on Pinellas Avenue, to the city’s Community Center on South Walton Avenue during the restoration effort.

But he said their longstanding commitment to the community made them determined to see it through.

“Essentially this is a community church and we welcome people of all faiths — Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Muslims — all faiths,” he said. “And what brings us together is a tradition of moral concern and working together for the good of the community. … One of the reasons there’s a lot of excitement tonight is because now we finally have a home again. Now we have a place to meet and to make the congregation feel welcome.”


YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

  1. A contractor with Pinellas County uses a tiller to fluff sand on the shoreline of Redington Shores beach Thursday. The tiller fluffs the sand making it easier for sea turtles to dig nests to lay eggs. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  2. People wearing masks walk in a subway station in Hong Kong early this month as the coronavirus continued to spread. Travel in China is one of the topics health care officials in Florida are bringing up with patients as concern about a pandemic grows. [KIN CHEUNG  |  Associated Press]
  3. Kermon Williams is wanted in connection with a January 2019 shooting in which two people died. [St. Petersburg Police Department]
  4. The antebellum mansions of Charleston's East Battery are a highlight of the city's historic district. SUSAN C. HEGGER  |  St. Louis Post Dispatch (2004) [SUSAN C. HEGGER  |  KRT]
  5. The scene of a double stabbing death in Largo, left, (photo courtesy Bay News 9) and booking photo of Wiley S. Mackenzie, arrested on two counts of murder. [Bay Nes 9/Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  6. A mystery billboard. A Tampa photographer's journey. A cruise to the Bahamas. Here's what leap day means to Floridians. [Clockwise from left: Times archives, Amie Santavicca and screenshot from leapdaycruise.com]
  7. Pinellas Park City Council member Patricia "Patti" Johnson, 74, has died of cancer, according to the city. [City of Pinellas Park]
  8. Benjamin Martin, 31, left, attacked Clearwater parking lot shooter Michael Drejka, 49, right, while they were inmates at Lancaster Correctional Institutional on Feb. 11, according to the Florida Department of Corrections. [Florida Department of Corrections]
  9. Sara, Mouse, Lilly and Mario are looking for their forever homes. [Courtesy of Hernando County Animal Services, St. Francis Animal Rescue, Pasco County Animal Services, Friends of Strays]
  10. Thomas Henry Shayhorn, left, and Dennis Phillip Lermy, right, were arrested after Pinellas deputies received a report of a man driving a Jaguar recklessly while shooting up with a needle. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  11. An unidentified fisherman wades into the water as storm clouds build over Tampa Bay as seen from the Gandy Bridge in St. Petersburg Wednesday. [MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times]
  12. An artist's rendering shows one view of Tyrone Middle School in St. Petersburg after a $28 million renovation. Work is expected to start in February 2021. The Pinellas County School Board approved a contract with Rowe Architects Inc. to work on the project. [Pinellas County Schools]
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement