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Eighty-six year old pews are the newest addition to the Visitors Information Center (VIC) and are twelve years older than the VIC building itself which was built in 1935. The 11 historic 8’ long, red cushioned pews are for visitors to sit while enjoying the movies “Struggle to Survive" and "Historic St. Augustine.”
The pews came by way of the Mount Moriah Baptist Church located in Hastings. The church is in the process of completely renovating the interior of their historic building and first on their list were new pews for the congregation.
Mount Moriah became an organized church in 1885 when the church was built in Federal Point in Putnam County. In 1923 for unknown reasons, the church moved to its present location on Daniels Street in Hastings, in St. Johns County.
The oldest member of the church Miss Minnie Hamilton remembers Pastor McPhaul, the church’s third pastor, hauling the wooden planks from the original building on a mule cart to their new site. “It was 1923 and there weren’t too many cars back then,” she stated.
And although it was three miles away from the original location, the congregation moved the structure plank by plank and completely rebuilt the church at its present location. A dated cornerstone was set when the structure was completed. Miss Hamilton said that the move was actually closer for the members of the congregation who worked and lived on farms east of Hastings. Being closer made the move more convenient for the members to attend services.
Miss Hamilton who is 77 years old has attended Mount Moriah Baptist Church most of her life and is its oldest member. She attended as a child and young adult, moved away for about nine years then returned and has been a member of the congregation ever since.
Mount Moriah, after being in existence for 124 years has had only five pastors with Pastor Gregory L. James the present pastor. He has headed the congregation of approximately 75 members since 2002. “We didn’t want to just throw out the pews because of their history. We know that when we want to see them and remember the years they were in our church, we can visit the VIC. We also know that they will be taken care of by the city, that was important to us,” said Pastor James.
The City of St. Augustine will restore the pews which now grace the VIC and serve people once again this time, our visitors and residents.