The history of First United Methodist Church Pensacola, FL dates back to 1821, when a mission was established by the Mississippi Conference and the Reverend Alexander Talley was appointed as missionary to Pensacola. The mission began by holding meetings in the courthouse and the old theater of Pensacola. However, in 1827, a lot was purchased on the northeast corner of Intendencia and Tarragona Streets and a church was built. The first services were held on June 2, 1828. These early years, 1870 – 1880, were crucial years for the church, which suffered two fires, in which the church was completely destroyed, and an epidemic of yellow fever.
In 1881, the first site was sold and property purchased at the northwest corner of Palafox and Garden Streets and a new building was started. In the fall of the next year, 1882, an epidemic of yellow fever struck again and took the lives of many of the people, including the pastor, the Reverend C. B. DuBose. The Palafox Street Church was completed in 1890, in time to host the Annual Conference. In 1898 a large fire engulfed most of Palafox Street, but fortunately First UMC was spared any damage. In 1901 several preaching missions were held, later becoming independent churches – Gadsden Street, Richards Memorial and Warrington. It was at this time that the mother church became known as First Church.
In 1906, the Palafox Street property was sold and a new site was purchased on Wright Street. On October 14, 1908, the cornerstone was laid for the new sanctuary. Services were held in Hannah Hall on Romana Street, and later in the basement of the church until it was completed in 1910. The first services were held on October 30, 1910. The pastor, the Reverend C. W. Gavin, supervised the construction of the church. On September 14, 1919 all indebtedness was removed and the church, with a membership of 709, was dedicated by Bishop W. F. McMurry.
Methodism continued to grow in Pensacola, and our church was instrumental in starting other churches — Cokesbury, St. Andrews and St. Paul’s at Midway, FL. In 1951, the Education Building was constructed. In 1959, the Chapel of the Good Shepherd was built in memory of W. C. Mackey and E. R. Malone. To give more room for youth activities, the Ark was opened in 1970. The Wright Place, the property adjacent to the church, was acquired on March 10, 1983 for use as an activity center. On April 15, 1983, the Education Building was badly damaged by fire. It reopened in 1984, after renovation.
A new administrative/classroom building was constructed during 1988-89 linking the Sanctuary to The Wright Place. In the early 90′s, the church acquired property from a bankrupt car dealership and transformed it into a seventy car parking lot for its members. This property will serve future expansion needs as outlined by long range planning. In 1997, the church bought a vacant building adjacent to the parking lot.
Also, in 1997, the church added a Columbarium unit and renovated the area surrounding it. Powers McLeod, who came to First Church in 1970 as the Senior Minister, was the first to be inurned here.
In May, 2000 Pensacola First Church acquired the building formerly owned by an independent church. This Outreach Ministry Center is home to adult Sunday School classes, a non-profit recovery organization, and church sponsored Boy Scout Troop.
The expanded choir loft was dedicated in early 2002. The Sanctuary construction, to house FUMC’s new organ, was completed in May. The organ, built by Tom Helms, was dedicated August 2002 organ in our area with 73 ranks of pipes and weighing some 50,000 pounds. This organ consists of a four-manual and pedal ebony console, a solid white oak case plus 4,153 pipes all strategically voiced for Pensacola First United Methodist Church.
The Build on the Dream capital project was completed in 2004 with the dedication of the new 3 story church lobby with connections to the Sanctuary, Library, Henry Roberts Activity Center, Wright Place and Education Building and also the new elevator in the Henry Roberts Activity Center with access to the 2nd floor of the Education building, Wright Place and Sanctuary.
In October of 2008, exactly 100 years after the cornerstone was laid for the Wright Street sanctuary, First UMC continued preparing for the future by purchasing the Gov. Edward Perry Home and the attached building, previously owned by the Scottish Rite Masons. The Gov. Perry Home has been restored and is open to the public as a part of Pensacola history, while the attached building (known as Wesley Abbey) was remodeled to house ICON, First UMC’s fourth Sunday morning service. With a membership of more that 3000 in 2008 , First Methodist has always believed that it is essential to preserve the past while embracing the future.