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Stop 67: The 1926 Florida Dairy Creamery

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The 1926 Florida Dairy Creamery converts to the McClain Hobby Law Office

 

The picturesque brick structure at 37908 Church Avenue clasps a vast history with glimpses of different trajectories of Dade City. The paths different arcs and trails of Dade City history. agrarian, mercantile, the fostering of key leaders, and veins of legal information.

 

     Although it was constructed in 1926 (Pasco records indicate 1922?), the story lines are spideresque for this remarkably iconic building.

 

     Beginning in 1916, realtor Isaac A. Wood helped to organize the Dade City Dairy & Creamery Association with the goal of collecting highly sought-after commodity of fresh milk to transport to a market in Tampa Bay. By 1925, the Florida Milk Company traversed a step further in proposing that a sixty by ninety-foot structure was fashioned in Dade City as a modern creamery and ice cream factory.

 

     John C. Lawrence and his wife Delilah Wigfield Lawrence owned a home on what is now 37908. The Lawrences were movers and shakers and had migrated to Dade City in 1921. A builder/contractor and a native of England who had businesses in Illinois and elsewhere before moving to Florida, promptly became an integral part of the Dade City Board of Trade and the new Chamber of Commerce, while Delilah was an outspoken advocate for the Temperance movement! (Note: Remember John’s connection to the Chamber of Commerce as it is integral to the narrative)!

 

     The Morning Times of October 3, 1925, reported that engineers were on the ground and plans were drawn for the new creamery. The Florida Milk Company had a signature design for their creameries and sure enough, the $20,000 tile and stucco structure was the norm for Florida creameries. The first building phase was to include one story but the fortified brick walls would allow for a second story to be built as the business grew. (Digressing for a moment, a later co-owner, Clyde Hobby, a member of the Florida Pioneer Museum & Village Board (STOP 9) related in an interview that, “yes, it was bult by Florida Dairy for the purpose of bottling milk and making ice cream. There was a huge difference in the floor levels between Church Street and the rear of the building because of the loading ramp access. The outside wall to my private office was about four foot thick (in brick) to keep the interior temperature cool.”

 

    The chief objective of the Florida Milk Company was to purchase milk from the area dairy farmers as most of Florida’s milk was being shipped into the state from the Midwest, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland. The Chamber of Commerce (both Florida and Dade City) saw this as a ‘golden opportunity’ for industry. They began installing creameries to induce farmers to purchase acreage and milk cows and produce milk! (Note that J.C. Lawrence supported this initiative and was convinced to sell his land for the effort (although he moved his home on the southern rear of the property in tack!)

 

By April of 1926, The Florida Milk Company had given its blessing to the local Florida Milk Company plant in Dade City and local Extension Agent, William T. Nettles was assisting local farmers and newcomers to buy acreage and milk cows!

 

Staff/Specialists were brought in from Tampa Bay to operate the Creamery branch which processed 2,000 gallons of milk and several hundred gallons of ice cream daily.

 

Dade City inadvertently had a leadership function in Florida Milk Company. William B. Sellers was one of the key team members who commenced the company in 1918. A native of Dade City, he had been a part of that 1916 group who created the Dade City group, which undoubtedly planted the seed for statewide leadership.

 

In later years, The Florida Milk Company was among the businesses to be influenced by the Milk Monopoly concerns expressed by the U.S. Congress. By the late 1930s, the Dade City Creamery opted out of the Florida Milk Company and operated independently. Henry W. Stevens and his wife, Anna moved to Dade City in 1944 to operate the creamery for its final two years. The Foremost Company purchased The Florida Milk Company in 1945. The Stevens would go on to more entrepreneurial enterprises in West Palm with “The Stevens Company.”

 

The creamery sold its inventory of equipment and was closed by 1949. The fortified structure however, would go on to reinvent itself.

 

    During the years 1949 to 1969, a variety of shops inhabited the space. Gibson & Gibson Hardware, an early Tampa Electric Company Office space, a sporting goods store, and a jewelry shop.

 

    From the years 1969 until the present, the substantial brick building took on a new life as its culture would transform from agrarian and mercantile to legal counsel. Two up and coming legal minds had been cultivated in the climate of Pasco’s county-seat. Joe Allen McClain was elected to the state legislature before graduating from law school, and opened his first office in the upstairs of the telephone building at 211 7th Street. While in law school, Clyde Hobby clerked for Lawyer Joe McClain. By 1969, the duo had purchased the old creamery building. A Tampa Tribune article of September 9th said the structure had been remodeled “with carriage lights to brighter the professional building.”

 

    For the next fifty-four years, the rebranding created a highly reputable law firm. Mr. McClain passed away in 2016. McClain’s daughter, Nancy McClain joined the firm as a lawyer in 1990, and was elected a Dade City commissioner in 1992. In 1995, Dennis Alfonso, a Tampa attorney married Nancy and joined the firm. Clyde’s son, Clarke also entered the legal field in West Pasco, in property law like his father. 

 

One wonders when these honorable legal professionals have the opportunity to reflect on their office accommodations if they might think of the earlier and more humble beginnings of the brick creamery!

 

Milestones and timeline of building and Businesses in Stages:

 

STAGE One: THE CREAMERY

  • Dade City Banner, August 19, 1916

           Headline reads: COOPERATIVE DAIRY ASSOCIATION FORMED

Dade City Dairy & Creamery Association was established; Isaac A. Wood organized; wagons will be sent from the central depot each morning and afternoon to collect milk at the farm houses and ship to Tampa

  • The Tampa Daily Times, October 2, 1925: TWO NEW STORES FOR DADE CITY

The Florida Milk Company will erect two stores at the corner of Church and Seventh…two story structures with apartments on the upper story. Property was bought from J.C. Lawrence who moved his residence to the rear of the large lot

  • Tampa Morning Tribune, October 3, 1925

Headline reads ST. PETERSBURG FIRM TO OPEN CREAMERY AT NEW DADE CITY PLANT

A modern creamery and ice cream factory was assured for Dade City with the purchase by Florida Milk Company; bought sixty by ninety foot lot at the corner of Seventh and East Church Streets from owner, John C Lawrence and wife, Delilah Wigfield Lawrence, a local leader in the Temperance movement.  John, a contractor/builder was a native of England and moved to Dade City from Illinois, in 1921. Engineers of the company have been on the grounds and plans for the new building are being made. It will be a tile and stucco structure of one story, but with walls to allow the addition of a second story 60 by 80 feet in size. Machinery for creamery, pasteurization and manufacture of ice cream will be installed. The company plans to purchase milk from dairy farmers in this section

  • Dade City Banner, January 8, 1926

Headline reads: “FLORIDA SPENDS MILLIONS THAT SHOULD BE RAISED AT HOME”

Milk & cream are shipped into Florida from Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland and Florida just purchased 8 6,000 tank cars for shipping milk?

Florida Chamber of Commerce proclaims that this is a golden opportunity to capitalists to establish creameries and induce farmers in Florida to purchase cows & produce milk!

  • Dade City Banner, April 2, 1926: “PLANT TO BE OPENED SOON: FLORIDA MILK COMPANY OFFICIALS INSPECTED THE DADE CITY BRANCH”

Assured the Extension Agent, William T. Nettles that the plant was ready for operation with goal to buy, cool and bottle milk and make ice cream. Farmers are buying land at from $50 to $200 dollars per acre and finding milk cows 

          With Six hard surfaced roads radiating from Dade City proper, any farm can access the roads to transport the milk!

  • Dade City Banner, April 13, 1926

PLANT CAN HANDLE 2,000 GALLONS OF MILK AND MANUFACTURE SEVERAL HUNDRED GALLONS OF ICE CREAM DAILY.

           Mr. and Mrs. Binion from St. Pete arrived to operate the branch creamery of the Florida Milk Company 

           Mr. Leverett will be in charge of plant and Emmett Giles will look after deliveries 

  • Dade City Banner, April 16, 1926

           CREAMERY AT THE CORNER OF SEVENTH STREET AND CHURCH STARTS OPERATION MONDAY

Machinery for weighing, cooling, canning, and bottling milk with apparatus to test butter fat is in place

Expected to be a vital part of the dairy industry 

  • The Tampa Daily Times, May 6, 1926

FLORIDA MILK COMPANY OPENED ITS’ $20,000 PLANT IN DADE CITY for local sale of milk, ice cream and shipment. It has caused an increase in number and size of milk cow herds and production of milk in vicinity

    • The Tampa Daily Times, September 10, 1932, WILLIAM B. SELLERS, PRESIDENT OF THE FLORIDA MILK COMPANY IS A NATIVE OF DADE CITY, FLORIDA; IN 1918, HE ORGANIZED THE FLORIDA MILK COMPANY WITH A TEAM.
    • The Tampa Daily Times, June 21, 1933 EDUCATION FILM, “BEHIND THE SCENES” WAS CREATED BY FLORIDA MILK COMPANY to display the process of pasteurization and sanitary handling of dairy products.
  • The Tampa Tribune, March 10, 1939. CONGRESS TOLD MILK MONOPOLY HITS CONSUMERS
  • The Palm Beach Post

Henry William Stevens and wife, Anna “Nan” Stevens moved from Philadelphia in 1944 to operate Dade City Creamery for two years.

  • The Tampa Bay Times, April 27, 1945 FOREMOST DAIRIES PURCHASES THE FLORIDA MILK COMPANY
  • The Tampa Tribune, December 29, 1946: DADE CITY CREAMERY CLOSED AND MACHINERY SOLD.

 

STAGE TWO: VARIOUS MERCANTILE BUSINESSES

The creamery continued to advertise equipment for sale through 1948. In the intervening years from 1949 to 1969 in the interval between the origin of the creamery and the occupation of the building as law firm, several local assorted businesses occupied the creamery building. Gibson & Gibson Hardware, the Tampa Electric Company, a sporting goods store, and a jewelry store. (Please let us know if you have more information on this time frame for our esteemed building!)

 

STAGE THREE: NEW LIFE AS LAW OFFICE 

  • Dade City Banner, May 15, 1958: Joe Allen McClain is candidate for State Legislature (just ready to graduate law school!)
  • Dade City Banner, October 16, 1958: Democratic candidates Winton King of Brandon and Joe McClain of Dade City swap campaign bumper stickers 
  • Dade City Banner, January 8, 1959: Legislator to Practice Law Here. McClain Opened his first law office at 211 South 7th Street in upstairs of Florida Telephone office (STOP 47 of the Dade City Merchant’s tour)?
  • Tampa Tribune, February 27, 1966: To some friends’ lawyer, H. Clyde Hobby is known as “Sharpshooter.” Others call him “Five Shot.”

Hobby’s plan to become a lawyer were hatched early in his life.

While in law school, Hobby worked as a clerk for Dade City lawyer, Joe McClain who represented the Pasco County School Board.  When he passed the Florida Bar exam, Hobby went to work as a lawyer for McClain and became his law partner. 

  • 1969: Joe McClain and Clyde Hobby buy the Creamery building
    • The Tampa Tribune, September 9, 1969 Headline reads: DADE CITY BUILDING REFURBISHED. Carriage lights brighten the professional building owned by attorneys, Joe McClain and Clyde Hobby, recently remodeled in Dade City. It stands at 7th Street and Church Avenue in the downtown business area.  
  • 1981: The partnership of Joe McClain and Clyde Hobby ended amicably in 1981, when Hobby decided to start an office in west Pasco. Hobby was handling legal matters away from Dade City and after his father Homer passed away in 1980. Hobby was one of the Pasco’s five planning commissions before the county’s zoning and subdivision ordinances were implemented in 1975. “I was in on the ground floor,” he said.

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