Florida’s Division of Historical Resources has awarded the City of Hawthorne a $26,418 grant to restore the Hawthorne Historical Museum and Cultural Center.
The building started in 1907 as an African American church called New Hope United Methodist Church.
Robert Moore, treasurer of the Hawthorne Historical Society, said the church outgrew its building and decided to construct a new one, leaving the old building abandoned in the 1960s.
The city moved the church building to its current location in 1997, and volunteers worked to restore it over the next five years. The building opened as the Hawthorne Historical Museum and Cultural Center in 2002 and still serves as a local meeting space and a way to preserve local history.
In a phone interview Hawthorne Mayor Matt Surrency said the grant money will help the city restore the facade of the museum through fresh paint and new wood molding. Surrency said the city wouldn’t have the means to improve the site without the state’s assistance.
"We're trying to preserve a lot of our history,” Surrency said, noting that the historical society meets in the museum.
Surrency said historians also use the space to give Black history presentations and shed light on local events. Moore said speakers from Ocala and Gainesville come and talk on topics from the turpentine industry to the Seminole Wars and even the namesake of the local elementary school.
Surrency said local families have donated items to the museum in order to preserve Hawthorne’s past and the city’s only museum.
“The community takes a lot of pride in it,” he said.
Moore said the building needs a lot of work, but he’s hopeful the city will acquire future grants to restore the building the right way.
“We're just thrilled that our little museum is going to be taken care of,” Moore said.
The Division of Historical Resources awards small, matching historic preservation grants every year to a range of statewide projects, from cemeteries to churches and even surveys.
This year 57 other recipients received grants, all for varying amounts with a cap set at $50,000. Old Mount Carmel Baptist Church is the only other site in Alachua County that received one of the grants. The church, located a few blocks north of University Avenue, is undergoing a three phase project to convert into a community space that promotes racial and social justice.