Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mandarin Has Rich History of Churches

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mandarin Has Rich History of Churches

Article excerpt

The sanctuary at 11270 San Jose Blvd. is far larger than its predecessor of 125 years ago, when it was one of just a scattering of churches in the then-sprawling farm community of Mandarin.

But even though the orange groves and cattle farms have been replaced by crowded suburbs and shopping centers, Mandarin United Methodist Church remains, said Pastor John Harrington.

When the church celebrates its 125th anniversary Sunday, Harrington said, those roots will be celebrated.

"That is exciting in a community that is as transient as Mandarin," Harrington said. "We have some members that are names in the community like Flynn and Hartley. Some of the roads here are named after the families that have roots in our church."

Mandarin is a centerpiece for some of Jacksonville's most historic churches, starting with a small Catholic chapel in 1850 on what is now Loretto Road. Replaced with the first St. Joseph's Catholic Church in 1859, it was followed by a second and still-standing church at 4124 Loretto Road.

Then there was the Episcopal Church of Our Savior, organized by famed author Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1883 at 12236 Mandarin Road. Hurricane Dora destroyed the original church in 1964, but the current sanctuary is a similar design, using many of the original furnishings and stained-glass windows.

In the middle of those was the first sanctuary for then-Mandarin Methodist Mission Church, now Mandarin United Methodist Church. Built in 1874 at what is now San Jose Boulevard and Loretto Road, it shared congregants and preacher T.W. Moore with Bethel Methodist Church, built in 1890 near what is now San Jose Boulevard and Sunbeam Road.

Both churches flourished until about 1905, when Mandarin Methodist Mission Church closed and its congregants and preacher joined Bethel permanently, said church historian Eleanor Melvin. …

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