ORLANDO (ANN) — The roof of the historic Black Bottom House of Prayer, located at the corner of Westmoreland and Bentley Streets in Orlando, collapsed early Thursday morning. Its owner, Pastor Dana “Action” Jackson, has been trying since she purchased the church in 2015 to have the property restored.
No one was in the building at the time. Pastor Jackson held her church’s Sunday services in a room separate from the sanctuary, where the damage to the roof was clearly evident. It is not clear if anything other than time was responsible for the collapse, but Orlando Fire District Chief Bryan Davis told reporters that the structure is now too dangerous to be permitted to stay. Even “the slightest shift in the wind” could cause the rest of the building to collapse, he said.
That assessment resulted in an order to demolish the building– something Pastor Jackson, has been urgently trying to prevent. She arrived at the site shortly after a demolition team showed up. She talked with city officials, prayed, then left. Shortly afterwards, City Commissioner Regina Hill (Orl-Dist. 5) arrived on scene and had the demolition temporarily halted, but city workers said the building was too far gone to leave in its present condition.
Jackson bought the church in 2015 and was actively attempting to have the property restored. She told the Advocate in 2017 that she used money she received as a result of her son’s death to purchase the church. She called the purchase her “grieving project.”
The church structure was the oldest black church building in Orlando, having been built in 1925 by the organizers of the Pleasant Hill Colored Methodist Episcopal church, who later changed the name to Carter Tabernacle CME. Carter Tabernacle later moved to the structure it now occupies near the intersection of Church Street and John Young Parkway. While Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church is an older congregation, it’s building is not. The original Mt. Zion property was demolished and rebuilt in 1962.
Pastor Jackson changed the name to The Black Bottom House of Prayer as part of her efforts to seek historic preservation status. See story: Historic Black Bottom House of Prayer in Need of Restoration
“The loss of this property will be a loss of a part of the Parramore story,” said Rev. Kevin Seraaj, pastor of Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church, who had attempted to assist Pastor Jackson in her efforts to renovate the building. “Our history is too precarious a commodity to be given short shrift. ‘Who’ owns a particular historic property should never the focus. What matters is our continuing presence as a community and a people, and whether or not the stories we tell can be experienced, or are just words forced to float on the winds of time.”