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Stop 43: The 2022 Spoke location once housed Pasco Lumber, Palmer House, Blitch House and more!

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AUDIO NARRATION*
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The Tourist Development Council grant funded the Spoke in 2022 and unfortunately was closed in 2023. The 2.3 acre property has housed Pasco Lumber, Palmer House, Blitch House and more! That history may not be evident on the surface but it abounds on that 2.3-acre property and is clearly reflected in the surrounding panoramas from the ample porch at the Spoke. If there could be a Dade City wormhole of Einstein’s hypothesis to travel back in time, it would surely be at the Spoke. 

 

      Stand on the porch and survey the landscapes. Quite obviously this breezy farm house style site anchors the Hardy Trail which holds railroad history and the spirit of Dade City from the likes of Roy and Martha Hardy as well as the historic Church Avenue which clasps the chronicles of the historic houses and iconic settlers of Dade City. From the tour, you know that a gaze from the Spoke to the north will tease of the heritage of the Seaboard Coastline and the everyday life of early Dade City on 8th Street and Meridian Avenue, and reveal many indicators of the past; and we offer more tidbits in this QR.

 

     In 2022, a ribbon cutting was hosted at the intersection of Church Avenue and 8th Street and adjacent to Hardy Trail to open the Spoke. Two partnerships over time brought that event to fruition. The first partnership involved the city working with Experience Florida’s Sports Coast of Pasco to develop a sports and health initiative and space. The moniker of Spoke was a tribute to transportation in the form of horse-drawn wagons, railroads, early automobiles and bicycles. As a metaphor of history, Spoke reflects the site of the Seaboard Coastline Railroad which Dade Citians fought for from the earliest times in addition to 8th Street (then known as Front Street) because it centered the economic core of the town. In addition, spokes from the bicycles symbolize the abundance of twenty-first century cyclists in the community who enjoy the lovely breezes and landscapes. Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore said in a news release, “Dade City is a popular place for cycling due to the rolling hills and all the trails so we expect thousands of people to come through here and visit this bike hub.”

 

     The second partnership however is the Weitzenkorn Family Partnership incorporated in 1994. The parcel of land that houses the Spoke sits on acreage owned and preserved by the Weitzenkorn family who supported the vision and who sold the land to the city in 2019. They worked extensively with Dade City for many years. Negotiations in 2005 were ongoing as the city considered purchasing this same land to build the new city government building, and even coaxed Otto Weitzenkorn to take the land off the market while the city contemplated the building as a possible location that would house the police and city government. (They eventually chose the George B. Dayton site on east Meridian.)

 

     The Weitzenkorns are near and dear to Dade City history and shaped its growth. So, for the backstory, Arnold and Frieda Weitzenkorn had been merchants in Germany. Arnold was persecuted as a Jewish merchant and imprisoned in Dachau and somehow narrowly escaped annihilation to make it to the United States in the very early part of World War II. By a chance encounter they came through Dade City in 1949 and like so many others you have learned about on the tour, they were smitten with the town. They purchased a store known as the Outlet Department Store and worked as successful merchants. His son, Otto bought out the outlet store from his parents and eventually renamed it Otto’s. Otto like his parents before him, was very active in the community and one of the founding members of the Dade City Main Street of the Department of Florida’s Bureau of Historical Preservation which operated for over twenty years. (Main Street’s vision may very well have saved historic Dade City.) Otto was also active in the Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, and a trustee of St. Leo College, and owned many businesses over time. 

 

     It is important to note that the space was also once a component of Church Avenue’s lovely historical homes, as the Essie Mae Burnworth Blitch home originally built by Tom Cheek, occupied a place at 116 East Church Avenue. The lovely Victorian bungalow-style Blitch house was built in 1895 and after numerous renovations was deemed doomed, after Weitzenkorn purchased the land. Weitzenkorn arranged for the Dade City Fire department to discard the property via a controlled burn that was quite a sight to behold.

 

     Adam Thomas said the Spoke is a structure that is woven into the palette of the community…so very true.  Within that historical palette of the Spoke, it is difficult to discern without being a surveyor the exact location of Pasco Lumber Company at the intersection of 8th and Church as there is overlap. That multi-acre parcel of Pasco Lumber Company was sold to First National Bank of the South in 1987. When one gazes at the photo of the building being demolished, the iconic historic Washingtonian Palm tree offers a marker to reveal the close proximity of the Spoke building to the lumber company. Pasco Lumber Company contributed to the growth of the city in a very literal manner that involved the Nikolai family. Peter Nikolai and his wife, Lena and six children arrived in Dade City in 1916. He and his sons operated the Pasco Lumber Company which happened to set on two acres with two buildings, one of which was a 1927 railroad shipping warehouse at the intersection of Church Avenue and Eighth Street for 38 years. They purchased it from Lawrence Puckett. Son George Nikolai and his brother, Werner said the presence of large chain building stores into the area influenced the decision to end the Pasco Lumber Company. George and his brother Werner sold the property to the First National Bank of the South. 

 

     We also cannot leave the space of the new Spoke without reflecting upon Church Avenue. You can utilize the Chamber of Commerce historical guide written by Melody Floyd or the book, Images of America: Dade City written by Madonna Wise, to walk the street and enjoy the numerous vintage houses, particularly at Church Street Christmas. 

 

     From the Spoke, you will however easily view some teasers for learning more about the historical palette of Church Avenue…for example you can glimpse the two-story house of 1903 Mayor James Knox Ward on the north side of Church Avenue as well as the 1919 American Legion Post building named for Gordon M. Crothers who was killed in France in World War I,  and then the Dade City Waterworks at the corner of Tenth and Church. Oh, the stories!!! 

 

Along Hardy Trail you will see many memorial tree plantings that are coordinated via the city of Dade City and the Dade City Garden Club.

 

From the site of the Spoke, veer southwest to pick up Church Avenue back toward 7th Street. You can enjoy the various businesses and know we will be working on QRs for all of them over time.  At the intersection of Church Avenue and 7th Street, gaze to your right, and you will see the South State Bank. Get ready to imagine and reflect.

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