Stop 1: The 1909 Pasco County Court House
For additional information on the former County Commissioner who spearheaded the renovation, watch:
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!