Roof Collapses at Historic Church in Black Orlando Community

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The roof has collapsed on a 94-year-old Florida church that was only recently granted historic landmark status, further endangering efforts to preserve the surrounding black community.

No one was injured when the roof of the Black Bottom House of Prayer in Parramore crumbled in on itself Thursday morning, news outlets report. It’s unclear what caused it, fire spokeswoman Ashley Papagni told the Orlando Sentinel.

“The slightest little change in shift of weight or wind and the rest of the building will collapse,” Orlando Fire District Chief Bryan Davis told WKMG-TV.

City officials ordered the unstable structure to be demolished. Pastor Dana Jackson and her two grandchildren raced inside Thursday trying to prevent that, and prayed for several minutes before leaving. City Commissioner Regina Hill also arrived and had the demolition work temporarily halted, but it was expected to resume on Friday.

Jackson bought the church in 2015 and was leading restoration efforts. She said it’s painful to see it like this.

“It’s a personal pain because I used the money from the death of my son to purchase the church,” she said. “It was my grieving project. The tears you see today is my work, it’s folded.”

The church was built in 1925, according to its website. Black families had moved to the area in 1916, calling it “black bottom” for the rain-fed flood water that lingered so long, people had to use canoes for transportation. Initially known as the home of the Pleasant Hill Colored Methodist Episcopal congregation, the church was later renamed Carter’s Tabernacle CME before getting its current name.

The neighborhood born from segregation now faces gentrification after struggling with poverty and institutional racism for decades. The Sentinel reported that its identity is in question as real estate values and rents skyrocket, forcing longtime residents out. Median rent in the zip code including Parramore climbed from $916 in 2014 to more than $1,200 this year, according to the online real estate company Zillow.


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