St. John’s Episcopal Church is located in Tuscumbia, Alabama. The church was built in 1852, making it the oldest Carpenter Gothic church in the state of Alabama. Since it was built, however, St. John’s has struggled to remain upright (literally). Damaged during the Civil War under occupation by the Union Army, the church was in poor condition by 1874. In that year, a tornado damaged the church so badly that it was considered unsafe to use. After the damaged tower was repaired and the walls reinforced, the church appeared to be saved from destruction. In the mid-1950s, a local architect built concrete buttresses to reinforce the sagging exterior walls. By 1955, the congregation, which had grown very small over the years, made the decision to merge with the congregation of Grace Episcopal in Sheffield, leaving St. John’s without a congregation. Today, the church is only used one day a year—All Saints Day.
In 2016, local preservationists formed the St. John’s advisory board for the purpose of exploring new options for the use and preservation of the church building. In conjunction with the MSNHA, the board won a technical assistance award from Partners for Sacred Places, a non-profit organization that specializes in the adaptive re-use of historic churches. On September 22, 2016, an asset-mapping event was held so that community members could identify the strengths of the church and look for ways that the church can be used in the future. Suggestions that grew out of the event included using the church to host musical events, as a laboratory for students learning about historic preservation, and as a local history center. The advisory board is continuing to move ahead, exploring new ideas for this important piece of Tuscumbia history.