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Stop 28: The 1912 Edwinola Hotel

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The 1912 Edwinola and Park was previously the site of the 1880s Dade City Hotel.

 

     The beautiful Edwinola Hotel was the epitome of post-Civil War Dade City. Folks were said to depart the Seaboard Coastline Train Depot and meander the sidewalk and up the hill for an elegant dinner in the hotel’s dining room and then stay to enjoy the charming town of Dade City.

 

    The location of the Edwinolg Hotel dates back to the Delcher House, often referred to as the Dade City Hotel which was built by James Albert Delcher soon after he arrived in Dade City in 1884. The Dade City Hotel succumbed to a fire in 1909.

 

    The Edwinola was constructed in 1912. The make-up was the unique creation of poured cement into the concrete block frame that featured Doric columns with two levels of verandas and mansard roof, covered with metal fish scale shingles. The result was a version of neoclassical architecture. 

 

    Folklore is everywhere regarding the Edwinola Hotel. Often legends are spun from a tragedy and that may be the case for the Edwinola. Seymour Gerowe, the original owner of the site and the developer of the vision of an elegant replacement Dade City hotel to accommodate the burgeoning visitors was killed when he tripped and plunged from a second story window while assisting with the construction. 

 

     Seymour Gerow was the brother-in-law of Edwin J. Gasque.  Gerowe and his sister, Lola Gerow Gasque were both eager for the hotel project to be completed. Edwin and Lola Gasque who had been in the turpentine business previously, bought out Gerowe’s interests from his widow, Florence after Gerowe’s heart-rendering death. They originated the ingenuous name, which is reminiscent of a modern celebrity twenty-first century combination of names, such a J-Lo, etc. In this case they combined each of their first names in a clever pattern; “Edwin” and “Lola” for “Edwinola.” 

 

    The Edwinola Hotel was the leading hotel of the area for many decades. Popular with traveling salesmen, it was the first sight of the Seaboard Railroad as they entered Antebellum Dade City and was a destination site for northern visitors. The previous Dade City Hotel had included a sampling building (which remained on the Edwinola grounds) for the traveling salesman that might be analogous to a wine cellar of modern times, but utilized for the salesman to store their perishable products and to provide a space for interested merchants to sample the wares. The sampling room was eventually purchased by the Dade City Woman’s Club as one of their early buildings.

 

     The hotel served as instructional space for the Florida East Coast University from 1969 to 1971. In addition, state-wide events were frequently held at the location including a Florida Statewide Press conference in 1924, and the hosting of a professional baseball team such as the Syracuse Chiefs who used Dade City as their training location in 1962. (Arrangements for housing at the Edwinola was in place during Jim Crowe, for the white members of the team while the Black members were housed in area residents in 1962). 

 

     In 1975, Robert D. and Marlene Sumner purchased and renovated the building and operated it as the Edwinola Restaurant. 

 

     Vacant for a period of time, The Edwinola was converted into a retirement home. A looming eight-story annex was added in 1983, to create additional space. After closure for a few years, it reopened in 2017 as a Priority Care Center.

  • 1880's

    The Delcher House, known as Dade City Hotel was built in the late 1880s by James A. Delcher who arrived in Dade City in 1884.

  • 1903

    Delcher sold the Dade City Hotel.

  • 1907

    May 17: Brobston & Company of Jacksonville purchased the Dade City hotel and grounds.

  • 1909

    October 29: The Dade City Hotel, formerly the Delcher House was destroyed in a fire. The hotel was operated by James A. Delcher who was also chairman of the Board of Pasco County Commissioners. It was one of the landmarks and was valued at $6,000 at the time of its demise. All of the guests escaped with their clothing and valuables.

  • 1909

    December 19: E.M. Harvey of Dade City sold the grounds of the Dade City Hotel to Seymour H. Gerowe of Atlanta, Georgia, who intended to build a new hotel he would manage himself.

  • 1911

    April 4: “Seymour H Gerowe, one of the best-known citizens in Dade City was instantly killed this morning at 9 o’clock when he fell thirty feet from a window ledge to the earth below. Yesterday morning he climbed to a window ledge to pull out some nails which had supported scaffolding on the building. One of the nails was unusually hard to draw, and when it finally did give away it was so sudden that Mr. Gerowe lost his balance and fell. He struck his head and in addition to having his neck broken suffered a broken nose, a long gash under the left eye and one on the left cheek.”

  • 1912

    March 8: The Hotel Edwinola had a formal opening on Saturday night at the same site as the former Dade City Hotel, with owners, Edwin J. Gasque and Lola Gasque and Manager, A.J. Stebbins.

  • 1924

    October 6: The meeting of the South Florida Press Association of Florida took place at the Edwinola.

  • 1925

    The Edwinola Hotel stands on a large plot of ground, facing the S.A.L. railroad tracks and yards, just west of the tracks. The grounds are beautiful by every flower and shrub imaginable, and the hosts of the hotel are friendly and courteous to the guests, night or day.” Times, November 30, 1925.

  • 1932

    Edwin J. Gasque, operator of the Edwinola Hotel at Dade City for twenty years, died October 24, 1932 Times.

  • 1950

    The Edwinola was closed for a few years.

  • 1957

    January 27: Excellent location, just remodeled, off Dade City’s main street and repainted. Has three floors and thirty-one sleeping rooms, reported the Tribune on January 27, 1957.

  • 1961

    Syracuse Chiefs of the International League conducted spring training at Dade City. Negotiations with Mayor John S. Burks and the Chief’s Board Chairman Frank E. Berry were successful in securing the team. 1969-1971: Occupied by Florida East Coast University.

  • 1975-1980

    Purchased by Marlene Sumner and operated as restaurant.

  • 1976

    Mike Eakin, Jacksonville Restaurateur purchased the Edwinola.

  • 1983

    Lewis Abraham, Dr. Marcelino Olivia, and Alan Barber formed a non-profit organization, The Dade City Retirement Home Inc., in which they became President, Vice President, and Secretary-Treasurer. They created an eight-story structure costing 12.4 million, designed by J. Howard Audibert, a St. Petersburg architect and constructed by E. Gene Simmons of Sarasota that sat directly behind and adjacent to the original Edwinola. The refurbished three-story building housed the kitchen, dining room, recreation rooms and offices. The retirement home provided living for the elderly.

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