|City/Town: • Mount Dora|
|Location Class: • Religious|
|Built: • 1926 | Abandoned: • 2015|
|Historic Designation: • African American Heritage Site|
|Status: • Abandoned|
|Photojournalist: • David Bulit|
The Mount Zion Primitive Baptist Church was first founded in the late-1800s by pioneer African-American families from northern Florida and Georgia. The original church was built in 1896 along with a cemetery on a hilltop of orange trees across US 441. Pioneers Julia and Richard Woodbury and her brother Archie, hauled lumber from Sanford located about 20 miles away, with a wagon to build the original church.
When the original church burned down, the current building was constructed in 1926 by the congregation. In 1953, the church was dragged 400 feet to the north along what was then Wood Road. Due to it being located in the path of the construction of US 441, it was moved to its current location on Old 441, not far from its previous location.
At its peak, its membership was comprised of 23 families but as years went by, members either died, moved away, or simply lost interest. By 2015, only four members remained, one being Beaulah Babbs who currently owns the church.
Abandoned for over 10 years, time and the elements have taken their toll on the building. The tower was wrapped in sheets of corrugated metal to keep out the elements, birds had made nests inside of the hymnal racks, and vandals had stolen things, notably a kerosene lamp which had been part of the church for over 80 years. An effort was undertaken to preserve the church and with the help of community members, $7,200 was raised to secure the building from further vandalism. On December 17, 2016, a service was held at the church, the first in over a decade. Continued updates on the Primitive Baptist Church’s preservation and restoration were posted on their Facebook page, Friends of Mount Zion, though their last update was in September 2017 following Hurricane Irma before the page was no longer accessible. The church has since been boarded up and remains vacant.