Church History Highlights
In 1885 fourteen Universalists gathered in a hall over a store to form a congregation with the Rev. Henry deLafayette Webster as its first minister. By the next year a small wooden church was built on land donated by Anson P. K. Safford, a local land developer, former Governor of Arizona, and a Universalist. Thus the first church in Tarpon Springs was erected two years before the city was incorporated and before the Orange Belt Railways came through the town. Other denominations being organized had use of the building until they could have their own.
The year after this first building was destroyed by fire in 1908, the present structure was erected at the corner of Grand Boulevard and Read Street. Several additions have been made since.
The congregation has at various times been named Church of the Good Shepherd, First Universalist Church, and Universalist Church of Tarpon Springs. Its present name, Unitarian Universalist Church of Tarpon Springs, was adopted in 1992.
Both Webster and Safford had many northern friends who were among those being attracted as winter visitors to Tarpon Springs after the railroad was built and the town was being developed as a resort. One winter visitor was George Inness, Sr., the famous 19th century landscape artist, who painted some of his well-known works here. Later his son, George Inness, Jr., a member of the church, painted three beautiful landscape panels for the sanctuary to replace windows blown out by a hurricane in 1918. The church is home to ten large Inness paintings that once adorned the walls, making a notable contribution to the beauty of the interior and to the cultural life of the community. The paintings were moved to secure storage when sinkholes were discovered on the property in 2013, but will once again adorn the walls of our church when the remediation and restoration work is complete.
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Tarpon Springs is one of some eleven hundred societies that are members of the Unitarian Universalist Association of North America.