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Parish History

In 1889, four years after the incorporation of Plant City, FL, the Episcopal Church purchased property on the Southeast corner of Wheeler and Mahoney Streets. In 1902, the Rev JH Weddell founded St Peter’s as a mission of Trinity Church, Thonotosassa, FL. In 1908, the current nave was erected at a cost of $2500.

The property on the corner of Mahoney and Wheeler was exchanged for the land where St Peter’s stands now, on Carey Street, at the foot of Mahoney Street. The church building was moved in 1953.

The Hargrave House was built that same year, originally as the vicarage. St David’s Church in Lakeland, FL, gave St Peter’s a former World War II barracks; the men of St Peter’s dismantled the building, transported it to Plant City, and then reconstructed it for use as a parish hall. This was known as Whitney Hall, named after Colonel WT Whitney, a long-time member and Senior Warden of St Peter’s. Whitney Hall was used over the years in a variety of ways including as Sunday School rooms and a rehearsal area for the choir. All of this was accomplished during the tenure of the Reverend WIlliam Folwell, who served as St Peter’s vicar and would later be elected as the second Bishop of the Diocese of Central Florida.

In 1956, during the tenure of William Sanderson, a kindergarten was established which flourished for 13 years. In 1963, under the Reverend Sanford Lindsey’s direction, a boy’s choir was begun and the original part of the parish hall was constructed.

The church became a self-supporting parish in 1969 when the Diocese of Southwest Florida was created out of the Diocese of South Florida. At the first convention of this new diocese St Peter’s was admitted to parish status and the Reverend Richard F Johnson became the first Rector.

From 1975-1989, while Grayson Garvin was Rector, a new rectory was purchased, the bell tower and balcony were built, the Zimmer pipe organ was custom built. In 1985 the north and south transepts were added, and the church was remolded to be a cruciform (cross-shaped) and a High Altar was added. The cruciform was accomplished by literally cutting the church building in half, pulling it apart and adding new transepts. The Corpus Christi and Lady chapels were built in the old part of the sanctuary and the north transept, respectively.

During the tenure of the Reverend Lester Durst, from 1995-2002, the cypress siding was replaced on the church, Whitney Hall and parish hall were refurbished. The parish hall was renamed Bender Hall, after beloved parishioner Jack Bender. The Hargrave House was remodeled, a Youth House was purchased allowing both the youth to have a dedicated space and the parking area to be extended. A youth minister was hired and the organ was augmented.

In June of 2003, The Reverend Thomas Thoeni became the Rector. A children’s chapel service was begun with age-appropriate instruction based on the church’s liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer. Efforts grew in outreach with St Peter’s adopting Woodrow Wilson Elementary School, the neighborhood school and becoming the first church to fully participate in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life in Plant City. The mortgage was retired, the church was repainted, and the centennial of the original part of the church building was celebrated.

Whitney Hall had grown dilapidated and was removed, paving the way for numerous plans and successes at remodeling and rebuilding.  The wood siding was replaced with Hardee board, the administrative offices were moved into a remodeled Hargrave House and nearly every room in Bender Hall was refurbished.

St Peter's has a rich history of being a place known for the beauty of holiness and as a welcoming and warm community dedicated to sharing the love of Christ.  

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