Greene Publishing, Inc.
In 1898, the President of the United States was William McKinley, the Spanish/American War had begun and the first automobile in history was sold. At that time, the First Baptist Church in Madison was already 63 years old. That was also the year that the First Baptist Church built a new sanctuary, which would later become known fondly as “the 1898 sanctuary.” Since that time, this beautiful old church building has become a Madison landmark. The building was originally built at the corner of Base St. and Meeting Ave. In 1956, the church was moved to its current location at the corner of Pinckney St. and Orange Ave. At the time of it's construction the pastor of the church was Rev. Stephen Crockett. Rev. Crockett, who was originally from England, had come to Madison in 1895 from Fairmont, Il., the location of Rev. Crockett's first American pastorate.
When it was constructed, the sanctuary did not adhere to the traditional style of church buildings, but rather was influenced by Gothic and Queen Anne architectural styles. The Queen Anne style is easily identified by the use of rounded corners with large bay windows and the use of tall turrets on other corners. These are evident in the design of the 1898 sanctuary. This same architectural style is carried into the interior of the building as well. The main interior sanctuary is an octagonal shape with a high ceiling and beautifully colorful stained glass windows encircling the room. Many of these windows bear the names of long time Madison residents. Reading these names is almost like reading a “who's who” of Madison history. People such as, S.B. Thomas and Mrs. Keziah Thomas, Mr. & Mrs. T. L. Whitlock, Rachael Parramore, John M. Beggs, Walderse Smith, Sallie Livingston, Jane Olive Mays, James (Jim) Hardee, Amanda C. Hardee, Deacon L. H. Patterson, G. J. Hardee, and others.
When in the sanctuary, one can almost feel the vast history that took place within those walls. As the church's current pastor, Gabe Krell puts it, “Just think of the messages that have been preached from that pulpit. Think of the history [that covers] two World Wars, the Great Depression, and so much more.” While the building is a tremendous historical treasure, the church does not plan on the building to be just a museum piece. “We don't want this to be a museum, we want it to be a useful building, like a living museum,” said Jean McWilliams, Chairperson of the Madison First Baptist Church History Committee. The building is in urgent need of a great deal of structural and decorative repair in order to restore it. Anyone wishing to contribute to this cause is encouraged to send a donation marked for the “1898 Fund” to the First Baptist Church, P.O. Box 307, Madison Fl., 32341 or by taking their donations directly to the church office located at 134 S.W. Meeting Ave.