History of First Presbyterian Church of Dunedin Florida
Long before there was a Dunedin, there was the Presbyterian church
The First Presbyterian Church of Dunedin traces its origins to the arrival of Rev. Joseph Brown of Rockbridge County, Virginia on May 31, 1868. He landed in a schooner at the foot of Main Street, and immediately held Sabbath services. He arrived 14 years before the village would be named “Dunedin” and 31 years before Dunedin became a formal, incorporated town.
Rev. Brown began to hold services in a little log schoolhouse, which stood at what is now the southwest intersection of Main Street and New York Avenue. For the next three years, he devoted his time to missionary work and preaching. In April of 1871, he determined there were enough settlers to organize a church, which was named Bethesda Presbyterian.
Five years later, in 1876, the congregation began constructing its own building on property near Jerry Lake, three miles east of the waterfront. A small cemetery (now the Dunedin Cemetery) was laid out next to the church. William Andrews, a young man from Virginia, had recently been killed in a freak accident. His father donated $200.00 toward the building of the new sanctuary, if the church was renamed “Andrews Memorial Presbyterian Church.” The church was renamed and the new building was dedicated in December 1878.
As time passed, the center of population moved toward the coast and the congregation outgrew the small church. In 1888, a new sanctuary was built in downtown Dunedin at the corner of Scotland Street and Highland Avenue. This charming new church, in the Early Florida Victorian Church style, contained a vaulted ceiling, a circular stained glass window, and a melodic bell. Surrounded by a white picket fence, it would serve as the sanctuary for 38 years (1888 to 1926). The beautiful bell in the church tower, cast in 1888 and weighing 1,000 pounds, was a gift of Cornelia Skinner Holly, aunt of Mary Skinner, and still rings out today.
In 1926, to accommodate a growing congregation, a new, expansive sanctuary was built in the Mediterranean Revival style. This beautiful new structure was the gift of long–term members, L.B. and Mary Skinner. The congregation changed the name of the church to First Presbyterian Church of Dunedin.
The 1888 Victorian church was moved south on the property and renamed Andrews Memorial Chapel. Later, in 1970, the building was given to the newly formed Dunedin Historical Society, and was moved to the entrance of Hammock Park. It has been lovingly reconditioned and is on the National Register of Historic Buildings. It is the second oldest structure in Dunedin, and today is used for weddings, memorial services and other public and private events.
Through the years, church members have been deeply involved in the spiritual and civic life of Dunedin, consistently worshiping God, spreading the good news of the gospel, and caring for the needy. The church has served as a beacon of hope and grace through times of war, pandemic, depression and burgeoning growth.
Since Dunedin became a formal municipality in 1899, church members have been engaged in its government. The first City Manager and several of the first City Commissioners were Presbyterians and church members have ever since been involved in city government.
First Presbyterian has been the “mother church” of newer Presbyterian churches in the area, notably St. Andrews Presbyterian Church of Dunedin, Northwood Presbyterian Church of Clearwater and Palm Harbor Presbyterian Church.
Rev. Dr. David K. Shelor, our present minister, was installed Palm Sunday 2016. Under his leadership the congregation both honors the church’s rich legacy and seeks to faithfully honor God’s will into the future.