After the cornerstone was laid in 1914, construction began on the new sanctuary. Stephen Olin Shinholser, a church member, was the general contractor of the building. It is an “Akron Plan” style of structure and also followed “Green’s Greatest Efficiency Plan”. The Akron Plan was a scheme for the design of churches and other religious buildings that housed Sunday schools. It was characterized by a set of wedge-shaped classrooms that radiated from the direction of a central superintendent’s platform. Doors or movable partitions could be closed to separate the classes, or opened to allow the entire body of pupils to participate in school-wide exercises.¹
Bishop W.A. Ainsworth dedicated the new building and it remains today as one of the few churches of this style. One of the common characteristics of Akron plan churches is the absence of a center aisle, instead, having two aisles that separate the sections of curved pews. Perhaps the lack of a center aisle for weddings and other ceremonies has led to the lack of Akron churches that remain.
The church, like much of the world, endured the tumultuous time that existed in the country at this time. World War I began in 1914 and the U.S. entered in 1917. The Church still has a roll of honor which names the men from the church who served their country during the war (pictured below). Following the war, the Spanish Influenza epidemic swept the world and had severe impacts on the U.S. and Florida. More information on this below.
According to the notation on the back of the photo owned by Blake Sawyers: in January 1921, the evangelist, Billy Sunday, preached in the church. A former baseball player, Billy Sunday was an incredibly popular and influential evangelist during this time.
In 1929, the Wesley Bible Class Federation of the Florida Conference convened on April 15 for a three-day session. Bishop Hoyt M. Dobbs, the presiding officer of the Florida Conference, called a session with his cabinet to meet simultaneously with the Federation to lend their support to this phase of Methodism. Some of the outstanding speakers were heard by approximately 400 laymen and pastors present at the conference. The Daughters of Wesley Sunday School Class of the First Methodist Church of Sanford was chartered at this time by the Federation.
Happening in Sanford
While Citrus was a huge industry in Florida at the time, thanks in large part to the efforts of Henry Sanford, devastating freezes in the winters of 1894 and 1895 crippled the industry. Many farmers and agriculturists left the area. “Those who stayed harnessed artesian wells and developed a sub-irrigation system that permitted commercial agriculture. By the first decade of the 20th century, Sanford was one of the largest vegetable shipping centers in the United States, and received the nickname “Celery City” for the most successful crop.”²
In 1913, Sanford became the county seat of Seminole County, which was created from the north part of Orange County. As mentioned above, like the church, the city endured the realities of WWI and the Spanish Flu outbreak at this time.
“The World War I flu pandemic killed 50 million people worldwide, a figure that still gets debated and revised in medical journals but remains breathtakingly huge. Of those deaths, 675,000 were people in the United States. In Florida, it’s estimated about 4,100 died statewide.
Because the disease spread fastest in crowded environments like Army barracks, factories, slums, and urban centers, Florida, which was mostly rural, fared better than other places. And Volusia County better than many other places in Florida. The worst outbreaks were in Tampa and Jacksonville.”³
Happening in the World
1914- Charlie Chaplin makes his film début, in the comedy short Making a Living.
1915- An act of the United States Congress designates the United States Coast Guard, which began in 1790, as a military branch.
1916- The Georgia Tech and Cumberland College football game ends in a score of 222-0.
1917 – The first Pulitzer Prizes are awarded: Laura E. Richards, Maud Howe Elliott and Florence Hall receive the first Pulitzer for a biography, (for Julia Ward Howe). Jean Jules Jusserand receives the first Pulitzer for history, for his work With Americans of Past and Present Days. Herbert Bayard Swope receives the first Pulitzer for journalism, for his work for the New York World.
1918– The United States Congress establishes time zones, and approves daylight saving time (DST goes into effect on March 31).
1919- The Florida Keys hurricane kills 600 in the Gulf of Mexico, Florida and Texas.
1920- Prohibition in the United States begins, with the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution coming into effect.
Image from Ocala paper October 9, 1918. accessed at: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84027621/1918-10-09/ed-1/seq-1/
Children from Starke in facemasks. Accessed: https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/8937