55. United Methodist Church

Historic Marker number 55 is located at 600 Eaton at the corner of Simonton and Elizabeth Streets.

The act of settling a small coral island with limited resources situated between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean took a strong belief in one's self and sense of a greater power watching over your life. The islands unique melting pot is made up of the descendants of shipwreck survivors, Cuban expatriates, fishermen, wreckers, spongers, soldiers, pirates, tobacco rollers, sailors, Bahamian's, and a wide array of people looking to reinvent themselves. The great success of Key West from the Civil War until the Great Depression was challenged by yellow fever epidemics, disastrous fires, powerful hurricanes and storms, and government bankruptcy in the 1930s. The one constant for the community was their strength of faith. Ten years after the founding of the city, two traveling Methodist preachers arrived by schooner in 1832. For the next twelve years the gathering spot for worship was a simple meeting in the home of Samuel Kemp, a Bahamian Methodist lay person. The first Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was formed in 1845 making the Old Stone Church the oldest Methodist church in South East Florida.

But that's just part of the story. The current limestone church structure is the fourth building that has housed this congregation. The first church building was a wood structure on the corner of Eaton and William Streets. The second church structure stood in the 600 block of Caroline Street. The third worship hall was a wooden structure built in 1846 on today's sight that was subsequently destroyed by the 1846 Havana Hurricane. See Historic Marker number 40 for additional hurricane information.

Shortly after, the congregation built a small temporary wooden worship hall and began planning for a substantial structure that could withstand natural disasters and the wrath of Mother Nature. By 1870, William Kerr, a noted builder and architect who first came to Key West as a member of the Union army to help construct local forts, was commissioned to design and build the new church. It took 15 years from 1877 through 1892 to build the current structure.

The new building was significantly larger than the wooden worship hall it was replacing. The coral stone was quarried from the church grounds with the foundation and walls erected around the wooden building. When Kerr installed the roof in 1884 the earlier wooden worship hall was dismantled and carried out the front door. The Old Stone Church was completed in 1892.