People gathered outside the worn brick building at 429 NW 4th St. on Sunday to celebrate the recognition of a historical landmark.
There were raised umbrellas, puddle-soaked dress pants and open doors but no unveiling.
“I put it up already,” said Gerard Duncan, who decided to display the Florida Heritage Site plaque on Friday. “I didn’t want this ceremony to be something that we were looking forward to as much as something that we were already doing.”
Duncan, the pastor of Prayers by Faith Outreach Ministries, which now occupies the building, said he fought to have the building recognized as a historical landmark for its role in the civil rights movement.
The Rev. Thomas A. Wright, who pastored the congregation from 1962 to 2006 when it was called Mount Carmel Baptist Church, collected an offering to pay for the plaque, which cost $2,000.
Duncan said Wright helped him with research during the state application process for historical recognition.
“He was the forerunner for equality for African Americans in Gainesville,” he said.
Duncan said he applied for the historical recognition out of nothing but a need to better the community.
“History is everything,” he said “We need some history.”
The building, constructed in 1946, was previously the local meeting place for the NAACP when organizers lobbied to desegregate Gainesville schools and implement a biracial city commission, Duncan said.
Bessie Collins, 22, sat with her 2-year-old daughter Dayla Jones at the dedication service.
“I was surprised to see that the plaque was already up,” Collins said. “I had no idea that this building was a part of history until Pastor Duncan told us.”
A version of this story ran on page 8 on 9/23/2013 under the headline "Church building recognized as Florida historical landmark"
Bessie Collins, 22, sits with her 2-year-old daughter Dayla Jones at the dedication service Sunday afternoon. “I was surprised to see that the plaque was already up,” Collins said. “I had no idea that this building was a part of history until Pastor Duncan told us.”