Stop 24: The 1903 Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church
The Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church community was organized in the late 1900s. The 1920 building at 14440 7th Street is tucked between businesses in north Dade City. The structure description is proudly recorded in the National Registry of Historic Places.
The heritage of the AME church dates back to the period of post-Civil War Reconstruction when the nearby community of Freedtown was founded by newly freed Black slaves on the shores of Lake Buddy, about four miles south of Dade City. The philosophical organization of the protestant affiliation dates back to 1787.
The Great Freeze of 1894-95 and the paralyzing prejudices of Jim Crow ended the community of Freedtown rather abruptly, as the church as well as homes and farms were abandoned as citrus crops were destroyed by the brutal freeze. Many residents subsequently moved to Dade City.
In 1903, the Mount Zion congregation reorganized in Dade City to build a frame meeting house on North 7th Street in downtown Dade City on a lot which had been purchased by Reverend Amos Thompson and trustees, Rufus Johnson, George Young and B. T. Green. The simple frame church building was erected from a community barn-raising style in which congregants pitched in to build the structure with their own labor and resources including hand-fashioned brick.
By World War I, the membership had expanded and the trustees purchased two adjoining lots for $150. The new church was the first Protestant church in all of Pasco County to be built of blocks which were casted on site by members.
The structure remains largely unchanged with steeples and stained-glass windows installed in the mid-1940s, replacing original windows of painted glass.
Stained glass windows on the east and west were distinctive with a window featuring a scene of Jesus in Gethsemane and another in the back displaying the image of Jesus as the good shepherd. Other stained-glass windows accent the four books of the Gospel.
The earlier 1903 frame structure was then used for Sunday School rooms and church offices.
In 1997 the Pasco County historical preservation committee dedicated a plaque signifying Mount ion as a historical landmark. The effort was led by Scott Black, Cora Lee Bennett and Cora Hill.
Scott Black said in 1997 that this was the first site in the Pasco County formally marking the significance of Black heritage.