The interstate highway system transformed America. I frequently bemoan the sterility of the interstate, but if I lacked this soulless and fast travel option, I would never get anywhere…because the side and back roads hold so much history and wonderful architecture (and I want to photograph all of it!). This past fall, I traveled through Wewahitchka, Florida, located in the northwest portion of the Sunshine State. Called “Wewa” by many locals, the town was established in 1875 and made the big screen in the 1997 movie Ulee’s Gold.
Though tupelo honey and two oblong lakes (that look like eyes, and inspired the town’s name) are Wewahitchka’s most trumpeted tourist attractions, I pleaded to stop for a small frame church I spied from the car. The board and batten structure, painted white, looked so much like an Episcopal Church that the sign reading “First Presbyterian” came as a shock. Even more intrigued, I looked down…
And saw the name of the original congregation, hand written into wet concrete many decades ago. Apparently, St. John’s Episcopal was the first church constructed in Wewahitchka, built by a master carpenter from Germany by the name of Francis C. Rummel. Around World War II, the Episcopals sold the building to the Presbyterian Church for $500.
The front gable church has a side bell tower which originally contained another set of double entry doors. Now, the only doors are located in the front gable vestibule that projects from the primary facade. The bell tower, topped with a steeple, is clad in board and batten and shingles – the latter form a delightful pattern that emphasized the square proportions of the tower (in contrast to the sharp angle of the adjacent gable).
Six windows on the sides illuminate the interior of the church, which shares a minister with the Presbyterian church in nearby Port St. Joe. The sun was high in the sky and right where I didn’t need it to be, so it took some careful consideration to get any decent photographs of this charming little building.
I’m not sure why so many rural Episcopal churches across the south embrace the Carpenter Gothic style of architecture (a term used to describe the application of the style to frame buildings by vernacular builders) but in my wanderings, I’ve found that true for many small town Episcopal congregations. Although I always encourage people to “look up!” when examining buildings, I think I now need to add “look down!” to my repertoire. There’s no telling what clues the sidewalk might hold.