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Archive for March 7th, 2010

Pilgrimage Statistics

Days Riding: 143                            Consecutive Days Blogging: 127

Today’s Mileage: 6                                        Total Trip Mileage: 1002

It’s good to be back on the bike after a couple days in the mountains with my church youth.  Today we’re going to visit a pilgrimage site in Daytona Beach Florida and then start to head north up the coast towards as St. Augustine and Jacksonville. 

On the surface today’s site may not seem all that special or significant.  It is a Christian church built in 1928 which was uniquely named: “The Tourist Church.”  This choice spoke to the fact that it served many of the tourists who visited the pristine beaches of East Central Florida.  It was built just as the speculative land booms boom of the 1920s ended and the great depression started.

 The church itself is unique and I will speak to the design and designer in a moment.  But I wanted to note that the process of in investigating these pilgrimage sites can lead to the discovery of intriguing aspect of the local history.  This process can also gives us insights into the social, political and religious forces that shaped these areas.  

In 1892 Col. C.C. Post and his wife Helen purchased a stretch of the barrier island east of the small settlement of Daytona.  Helen Post was a proponent of the new “Mental Science” movement; she proposed founding a settlement called: “City Beautiful.”  She spread her message of positive thinking and self improvement through several books and a paper called “Freedom”

 Her paper was such a success that after several years the post office moved to a larger facility up the beach in an area that was to later become the settlement of Daytona Beach.  After several years the people of Sea Breeze petitioned for a new post office and in 1898 a new one was built and named after Senator Ernest Goodall of Maine. In 1925 the three small settlements of Daytona, Daytona Beach and Sea Breeze combined to become Daytona Beach. 

A decision was also made to build a church to serve the needs of the tourist population.  The tourist church, while affiliated with the Congregational Society, was built in 1929 to cater to the diverse religious backgrounds of tourists. A well-known Midwestern architect Harry Griffin had moved to the Daytona area.  The church was designing in the Mission/ Spanish Colonial Revival styles of architecture.  It was constructed with “bog rock” a type of stone that was unique to the coast and quarried in the ridge west of Daytona Beach.  The church went through a denominational change and became known as the Sea Breeze United Church of Christ. The church was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1995.

As I look through the photos of the church I was struck by the large stained glass windows, featuring Christ’s birth, at the rear of the building.  The front of the church contains a beautiful wooden pipe organ.

I find this process of discovering pilgrimages sites to be enjoyable and informative.  Sometimes more of a story lurks below the surface!  I noted earlier that the Sea Breeze post office was named for a Senator from Maine.  I wondered if he was a frequent visitor to the area, but thought little more of it.  I wondered about the “popular” paper of Mrs. Post, so I searched the internet for references and uncovered a story of spiritual movements, dreams of a utopian settlement, political intrigue (including a US Senator), postal fraud, and disgraced lives.  Tomorrow I will spin the intriguing tale of Mrs.Post, the New Thought movement, distant healing and a case that made its way to the Supreme Court.

It was a dynamic process that brought the community of Sea Breeze to the edge of a pristine and beautiful beach.  It was a dynamic process that brought me to learn of this site and its story.  It is a dynamic process that brought me to share it with you.  It will be a similar dynamic and unfolding process that will help us connect with each other, connect with our shared history and connect with the world.

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