Gainesville pastor calls on community to renovate historic black church

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) — In 2021, Old Mt. Carmel Baptist Church was registered as a National Historic Site and now neighbors can decide how it will be renovated.

“And it’s kind of like my hidden gem, but now it’s time for me to bring it to the fore,” Pastor Gerard Duncan said.

He has partnered with the City of Gainesville, University of Florida Architecture Students, and the UF Historic Preservation Program. The church is a landmark in the Pleasant Street area, as it once served as a refuge for the black community.

“He told me there was nowhere he had been that had the level of history that Gainesville had, so he was very proud to pass it on to me and I feel blessed to come in, well, to walk in these footsteps, but to have passed on this torch to continue the legacy and the work.

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Duncan has had the church registered statewide and nationally as a historic place. The building is connected to the civil rights movement, desegregation initiatives, and NAACP meetings. More than $2 million is planned for the renovations.

“I want it to be something that’s a space shared by the community, your ideas, your input because I’m a young guy, I don’t know the history of civil rights, the legacy and all the things that the people from this community have lived from this space, so I want them to come out and contribute and we’re going to have a great time.

On Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., residents can map out future plans for this historic site during the first community redesign workshop.

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