How it all began …
Siesta Key Chapel began with a recognition by church officials, and realization by residents, that a new church was needed as Siesta Key’s population grew. In 1970, Dr. James R. Blackwood accepted a call to be the organizing pastor. Without a church building, or property to build on, worship services were held in the auditorium of the Out-of-Door school (now Out-of-Door Academy), where Louise Blackwood played the piano braced to prevent its sliding across the uneven floor.
The sanctuary that was eventually built is often spoken of as “God’s Tree House”, but the path leading to it was neither smooth nor swiftly traveled. For the first five years, the small group of worshippers had no place of its own. That nearly all of those who set out with the chapel stayed with it, even in the face of great discouragement, speaks for their devotion to Christ and loyalty to his church.
Siesta Key Chapel originated in cooperation. There were then southern and northern Presbyterian denominations. Both sponsored the new church and jointly, bought land on which to build a sanctuary. Plans were drawn and a building fund was established, but when some property owners protested against having a church nearby, their views prevailed. The new property was purchased – smaller, more costly, but more beautiful than the original site. The following plans were rejected because recent legislation required new buildings in coastal areas to be well above the mean high tide level. Eliminating auxiliary buildings, the final architects’ drawings depicted only a sanctuary, placed on stilts.
Siesta Key Chapel is built of pine and rough-sawn cedar: plain, natural, and strong. Clear glass windows overlook palms, oaks, cedars, and towering pines. Designed by two members of the church, the building received three citations for architectural excellence and was ranked first in Florida among all new buildings of wood construction. The beautiful sanctuary remains the heart of Siesta Key Chapel, its structure in harmony with its surroundings, allowing members and visitors to experience the beauty of God’s handiwork as they worship Him.
Over the years Sunday School rooms, a nursery, meeting rooms, a fellowship hall and kitchen, and an office and study for the pastor have been added.
In 2008, an expansion was completed that added a larger outdoor deck with convenient restrooms for churchgoers and an elevator. New classrooms, offices, and sanctuary seating were also added.