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Ask The Times: Who owns the old church on West Academy?
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The former First Methodist Church at Green Street NE and Academy Street was built from 1906-1908. Today it belongs to The Arts Council. - photo by Scott Rogers
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The former First Methodist Church of Gainesville survived the 1936 tornado which destroyed the downtown area. It was purchased and later gifted by Lessie and Charles Smithgall to The Arts Council, Inc. in 2004. - photo by Scott Rogers

If you’ve been wondering about something in your community, Ask The Times is your place to get answers. The following question was submitted by a reader and answered through the efforts of our news staff.

Who owns the closed church at the corner of West Academy and Green Street in Gainesville? What is its history, and what’s being done to fix damage to the stained glass?

The Arts Council owns the building and is working to replace some stained glass knocked out during Tropical Storm Irma.

Gladys Wyant, executive director of The Arts Council, said temporary plastic glass has been put up until the stained glass can be replaced. She said her two main tasks on that front are finding stained glass that will match what’s already on the former church (its construction lasted from 1906 to 1908) and finding a stained glass artist who isn’t afraid of heights.

The former church is one of just a few buildings that survived the tornado to hit downtown Gainesville in 1936. 

The building originally housed First United Methodist Church until 1985, then Westminster Presbyterian Church before Charles and Lessie Smithgall owned it for a little while before donating it to The Arts Council.

The Arts Council had concerts with the likes of Zac Brown Band, Shawn Mullins and George Winston before needing to make some renovations. It also hosted children’s programs in the summer at the building.

A major part of the renovations includes the addition of sprinklers. Wyant said The Arts Council has had volunteers do work to save money. She’s looking forward to the former church building hosting more events in the future once the improvements are made.

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