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Historic Black Bottom House of Prayer in Need of Restoration

ORLANDO, FL– A historic downtown Orlando church is turning to the community for help in restoring the building to original condition. The Black Bottom House of Prayer of Orlando, located at 921 Bentley Avenue, will hold a dedication ceremony to commemorate the unveiling of the historical marker that acknowledges the building’s 92-year-old history.The ceremony will be held at the church, 921 Bentley Avenue, on March 19, 2017 at 2 PM. Special guests include former Ms. America, Ericka Dunlap; Tony Pittman and the Harmony Winds Gospel Singing Group, Charlie Wilder of the Orange County Board of Retirees, Jones High School Alumni, and representatives of the AACCC (African American Council of Christian Clergy). Also on hand will be Antonio Girley (“Keeping the Legacy Alive”), Patricia El-Shabazz, Evangelist Angela Darby, Elder Lorenzo Dublin, Chaplain Lemay, and many others.

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black bottom
Pastor Dana Jackson with mother, Evangelist Mary L. Jackson and granddaughter Queen Baker

The Black Bottom House of Prayer and Pastor Dana Jackson welcome the public to share in and witness this exciting historical event. The occasion will be festive as the church also celebrates the 70th birthday of Mary L. Jackson, affectionately known as the “mother of the church.”

The building is a significant part of Orlando’s history. In the summer of 1916, several black families settled in the area called “Black Bottom” at the time because when it rained, water settled in the area and remained so long that residents had to build canoes for transportation.

In 1925, the Black Bottom House of Prayer was constructed as the home of the Pleasant Hill Colored Methodist Episcopal congregation, later renamed Carter’s Tabernacle CME. It was financed through a stock purchase from the Orange County Building and Loan Association. Thirty shares were purchased at $100 per share, for a total of $3,000.

Black Bottom House of Prayer
Black Botton House of Prayer

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The building was designed in the popular Spanish Mission Style with exterior stucco finish, arched doorways, casement windows, and a red-tiled roof. The thick brick and stucco walls were thought to have a cooling effect in the Florida sun in the days before air conditioning. The building, now 92 years old, is possibly the oldest church building in Orlando’s black community. The oldest black church, believed to be Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church (535 W. Washington Street), demolished and rebuilt its existing church building in 1962.

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Under current policies, once a building or structure has been approved for historic preservation, guidelines prohibit the property from being destroyed.

Jackson is praying for the community’s support in restoring the church. Normal wear and tear over the past 92 years have taken their toll, but Jackson’s most immediate focus is on securing help in replacing the roof over the sanctuary.

“Estimates to complete the renovation come in at around $250,000,” Jackson said. “It’s a large, but not impossible amount to raise. We welcome angelic underwriting and favor.”

Pastor Jackson, also affectionately known as Dana “Action” Jackson, is known for her Justice for All Radio and Social Justice Ministry broadcast which boasted 70,000 listeners.

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The marker officially denoting the site a historic property will be formally unveiled on March 19.

“This property was the original home of the Carter Tabernacle CME Church which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year,” said Pastor Jackson. “It’s a part of the Black Bottom area of Orlando, and part of the rich history of the black community in Parramore. We are asking our community and every fan of the radio broadcast to stand together in support of this historic institution. It’s important that we both remember and protect our past.”

If you would like to donate to the church’s renovation and preservation, you can contact the church directly or contribute to the effort at GoFundMe.com.

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