Most people who know anything about Dade City have heard a thing or two about The Edwinola.
After all, the building has been around for more than a century, and has had its glory days and dark chapters during its history.
The Edwinola opened originally in 1912 to replace the Dade City Hotel, which had burned in 1907.
The hotel was built by Edwin and Lola Gasque, who came up with the name Edwinola, by combining their first names, according to an account provided by Madonna Wise, a local historian.
For years, the structure — with its wrap-around veranda, Doric columns and Mansard roof — was a popular destination for businessmen and travelers.
“The Edwinola is an icon in the community,” said Darcielle Gray, executive director of the senior living community, which has closed and reopened more than once through the years.
After ceasing operations as a hotel, it became a private residence, a university, a boarding house, a restaurant and an assisted living facility, according to various historic accounts. It closed most recently after two violent deaths and reported care violations, according to media reports.
“I think it was a loss for the community when it closed. Even though it had gone through some hard times, I think it was a big loss,” Gray said. “There was a lot of sadness about it closing.”
Now, the building has been refreshed, and residents have begun moving in, she said. “We have people who are slated to move in, almost daily, for the next several weeks.”
The eight-story senior living facility offers a variety of models, Gray said, noting “we’re pretty much able to accommodate anyone.”
The building has the capacity for about 160 residents, and the types of units will depend on demand.
“We’re going to have two floors of independent to start with. We are applying for our assisted living license. So, we’ll have assisted living. Then, a few months after that, we’ll be offering memory care,” Gray said.
A grand opening celebration has been set for May 23, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., at 14235 Edwinola Way. There will be refreshments, tours and a ribbon cutting.
The Edwinola’s reopening is creating a buzz in the community.
“Everybody is pretty excited about it,” said Gray. “When we talk to store owners in the Dade City area, different churches in the area, everybody seems to be quite happy because it gives a place for the seniors of Dade City to be able to stay in Dade City.
“For them to be able to do that, that’s a pretty big thing,” she said.
“Dade Citians are Dade Citians,” she explained. “They like their town. They like their banking here and their restaurants here, and their friends are here.
“So, when they get to stay here – especially at The Edwinola — they’re right in the middle of town,” she said.
Area merchants have already provided discount coupons, and because The Edwinola is pet friendly, Gray expects the nearby pet shop to be a popular place with residents.
Seniors also will be able to take advantage of nearby restaurants and beauty shops, and be able to mix with people they’ve known for years.
That’s a benefit for the seniors, but also a benefit for the community, Gray said.
She expects most of The Edwinola’s residents will come from the Dade City and the surrounding communities, but she also suspects that some snowbirds may decide to settle in there, too.
There is no buy-in or long-term commitment, Gray said.
“There’s a basic community fee for entering. And then, you pay your check monthly,” she said. There’s a 30-day notice, in order to leave.
The services provided for independent residents will include a light housekeeping service and a continental breakfast and lunch. Those wishing three hot meals a day can purchase a meal ticket.
The residence also will provide transportation, to take residents out shopping, to doctors, to events, to movies and so on, Gray said. That service is important to seniors because many of them find it frightening to drive in heavy traffic, she said.
The executive director said her goal, and the goal of her staff, will be to create an environment where residents set the course for the kinds of activities they do.
“We will meet monthly to determine what next month’s calendar looks like.
“We really want the residents determining their schedule, so they will drive a lot of the activities we do, based on what the group wants to do,” she said.
She’s already been talking to some of the new residents.
“Some of the ladies are like, ‘Can we have happy hour?’” Gray said, to which she responded: “Yes. We can have happy hour as many times a week as you want.”
There will be standard activities, such as movies and popcorn, arts and crafts, and bingo. There also will be weekly speakers.
“One of our goals is to make sure that the residents here know any providers that are available to them.
“If a resident here ends up going to the hospital for some reason, we don’t want them to meet the hospital social worker the first time they’re lying in bed,” Gray said.
“We’ll bring in wheelchair clinics. We’ll bring in walker clinics. We’ll bring in nutritionists and chefs,” she said.
The idea is for residents to venture out into the community and for people from the community to drop in, too, Gray said.
Along those lines, she has issued an invitation to the Dade City Police to “come in and partake in any meal that we have here,” she said. She plans to invite the fire department to do the same.
“Sometimes our world gets smaller, as we get senior. We want to make sure that it stays wide,” Gray said.
The executive director is upbeat about The Edwinola’s future.
She envisions it as becoming a vibrant new place for seniors to call home, and she finds that prospect to be exciting.
“It’s a brand-new start,” Gray said.
The Edwinola’s grand opening
Where: The Edwinola, 14235 Edwinola Way, Dade City
When: May 23, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. (Ribbon cutting at 5:30 p.m.)
Details: Drinks and hors d’oeuvres will be served to mark the grand opening of The Edwinola, an iconic building that has been remodeled to serve as a senior living community. Tours will be given.
Information: Call (352) 567-6500, or visit TheEdwinola.com.
Published May 17, 2017