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Stop 1: The 1909 Pasco County Court House


For additional information on the former County Commissioner who spearheaded the renovation, watch:

Copyright © 2024

Glimpse the 1909 quintessential courthouse. It is the crown jewel of history for our magnificent historical town that is branded in everything historical. 

     As historian Carol Hedman penned…the neoclassical dome and its clock have towered over downtown for more than 110 years, proudly proclaiming it as the county seat. 

The novice county commission passed a 1909 resolution to erect the new brick courthouse for a bid of no more than $35,000 to Mutual Construction. Edward Columbus Hosford provided the majestic plans while Artemus Roberts oversaw the construction. 

     History can be tricky and here is an example. For years, we thought Artemus Roberts designed the classical revival building but in 1992, we discovered that Hosford was actually the architect. Later in the tour you will hear about the Griffin block and Dade City Grammar School that Roberts designed…all convey history!

     You did however, hear the word “NEW” …right? Well, this 1909 courthouse which anchors our profound history was NOT the first building.  Our county was formed in 1887 and Dade City was dubbed the first, although TEMPORARY county seat. Clever Business partners, Henry Coleman and William Ferguson saw a momentous opportunity to push Dade City to become the permanent county seat in their industrious efforts to brand the history by building the first courthouse structure near 7th Street (then named Cherry Street) and Meridian which they offered a frame building rent free (They recognized the potential commerce in having their townhouse the judicial center of the fledgling county). 

     Predictably, Dade City was voted the OFFICIAL county seat in a tumultuous 1891 election, and the commissioners contracted to build a second frame courthouse structure to replace the Coleman & Ferguson rental space for seven thousand dollars. (Photos 2 and 3 illustrate this and you can see the frame structure predecessor to the left of our courthouse). Our own 2022 city commissioner and historian, Scott Black related that the second frame structure was auctioned in 1909 and moved, as the commissioners were bent on clearing space to show off our magnificent gem.

    If walls could talk! 

Oh my, the stories this beautiful location would share with us. The site of glorious meetings that hosted governors and dignitaries and lengthy trials reflected topics of prohibition, murder convictions, and policies that still stand and others that have changed and continued to be debated there. Yet today, the commission meetings on the second floor are animated and parallel the passions of the day. Walking up the winding stairs, one truly feels the history on a visceral level. A few ghosts inhabit the space. 

    As time does wane and alter surface appearances, the courthouse was showing her age! In 1979 a modern courthouse was erected just down the street (you will glimpse it in one of the next stops), and many folks sighed a bit but anticipated the modern sprawling structure would supersede her architectural predecessor! 

     What to do with the ole girl? For the next twenty years, our historical treasure stood crumbling and deteriorating. Her fate seemed sealed. There had been a number of facelifts over the years with new sections on the east and west that camouflaged her spectacular porticoes and elegance, but one could still catch a whiff of her incredible charm that anchored the town.

Well, voila, a hometown girl with a passion for Dade City, Sylvia Young who served as county commissioner for twenty years, came to our rescue. She spearheaded a 3.2 million, four-year restoration and obtained state historic grants. The 1940s additions were removed and her bones were fortified. Even the historic clock was repaired by the original company. She was restored to her near-original design. 

Our charming and outspoken home town gal, Sylvia with a flair for style and antiques, volunteered to painstakingly select period antique furniture with a budget of $50,000. (a plaque shows Sylvia Young’s dedication…photo).

     Community pride was strong with incredible support for the courthouse and history. An incongruent landscaping effort as a part of the restoration had called for the annihilation of the grandfather oaks that surrounded the courthouse because they were not symmetrical, as they were to be replaced by baby oaks planted in perfect formation to protect a structured walkways around the courthouse. Another incredible leader, Patricia Carver, rallied the community and organized a peaceful protest with members of the Dade City Garden Club. Members tied yellow ribbons on the grandfather oaks and trees throughout the city. They won out to save the grandfather oaks that fortify the history of the most iconic of our historical structures. 

    Pride was palpable as Sylvia brought her first cousins, the Bellamy Brothers to perform at the dedication. Tears and unadulterated pride could not be concealed. Our courthouse was promoted to the National Historic Registry in 2006!

     Just marvel for a few minutes as you gaze and reflect upon this incredible courthouse as the epicenter that brands Dade City’s vast history!

  • 1887

    Pasco County became a county in 1887 and Dade City was dubbed the “temporary” county seat. Business partners, Henry Coleman and William Ferguson recognized the opportunity for Dade City to become the permanent county seat which would promote commerce. The duo built the first frame courthouse structure near 7th and Meridian and offered it rent free to the new county commissioners.

  • 1891

    Dade City was voted the official county seat in tumultuous election.

  • 1909

    A second frame courthouse structure was auctioned and moved as the commissioners wanted a clear space to show off a majestic new structure.

  • 1909

    Contract was let to Mutual Construction with architect, Edward Columbus Hosford and Artemus Roberts to supervise construction.

  • 1911

    Building completed.

  • 1938

    Work Progress Administration (WPA) funds from the New Deal were used to increase office space and jail ($40,000 included a WPA allocation of $22,368) with W.B. Madill in charge of construction and J.R. Hammett, WPA supervisor. Bricks were used from the demolition of Sheriff’s living quarters at the 1892 jail.

  • 1952

    An $18,700 addition by Contractor E. M. Covington of Dade City was added with two rooms and corridor to east side with partition of county superintendent’s room into several offices.

  • 1953

    Air conditioning and two room annex were added on east side.

  • 1959

    Additionas included a $64,000 addition to courthouse for ground floor office space and basement for vault of record storage; three-stop automatic elevator, terrazzo floor and aluminum awnings. The school board office took over tax collector’s office. Construction was by E.M. Covington and Tampa Architect, I.A. De Minicis.

  • 1961

    Courthouse received a three-way expansion for $153,000 by U.S. Amalgamated. Walls were moved to the south to stretch out the building and a third story on the west was added; innovations included semi-automatic switchboard, two padded cells, a second elevator, and 12-14 new offices with three air conditioning units.

  • 1962

    Courthouse Remodeling and annex for $15,000 to U.S. Amalgamated Constructors of Tampa.

  • 1979

    A modern courthouse was erected on Live Oak Avenue, and for several years the 1909 courthouse stood deteriorating.

  • 1998

    Dedicated on December 5, 1998, the 2.3 million dollar (l.3 from state historic preservation grants) four-year restoration of the 1909 Courthouse spearheaded by County Commissioner Sylvia Young included removal of five additions to return it to a near original style. Young was allotted a $50,000 budget from the commission for the purchase of antique furnishings which she painstakingly selected.

  • 2006

    Designated in the National Registry of Historic Places for the United States Department of the Interior/National Park Service.