In the wee hours of June 2 — around 1:35 a.m., to be exact — the first of two sections of a log cabin were transported down U.S. 301, en route to a new home on the grounds of The Pioneer Florida Museum and Village.
The structure joins a collection of more than a dozen buildings situated on the 20-acre site, north of Dade City.
Together, they help tell the story of the men, women and children who have made a life in Florida — through the buildings where they went to school, or worshiped, where they shopped, worked and met for social gatherings.
The collections include the Enterprise Baptist Church, originally built in 1878, then rebuilt in 1903.
There’s also the Old Lacoochee Schoolhouse, built around 1926.
Other structures on the property include the 1896 Trilby depot, the 1927 C.C. Smith General Store and Overstreet House, an 1864 farmhouse.
The museum’s most ambitious relocation project happened in 1993, when it moved buildings from The Green Swamp, which is managed by the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
“We moved an old hunting lodge and a bunkhouse 40 miles from The Green Swamp,” recalled Susan Sumner Shelton, a long-time museum board member.
The cypress structures originally were owned by the Cummer Sons Cypress Company, which operated the South’s largest sawmill and box factory in Lacoochee until 1958.
“It took state historic grants to move and restore those buildings,” Shelton said.
The log cabin, which is the most recent structure moved to the grounds, is perhaps the oldest one in Pasco County.
It was moved from Lacoochee.
Elaine Black Wilson, who donated her grandfather’s log cabin to the museum, marveled at the how well the cabin has stood up, over time.
“I was just amazed that it was not damaged by rotten wood after all these years,” she said.
Besides its connection to the past, the building also has a connection to the present. It belonged to Dade City Commissioner Scott Black’s grandfather. The commissioner lived in the house with his grandmother for several months, in the early 1970s.
George E.W. and Mamie Black purchased the cabin from the Mann family in the late 1950s, after George retired from the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. The house was passed onto their son, Walt Black, and later his daughter, Elaine.
Before the cabin was moved to the museum grounds, volunteers worked to do some deconstruction work — removing additions that had been added to the original structure.
The house also had to be divided in two, to fit on the trailers used in the move.
Like the building relocations in 1993, this one was complicated.
It was done at night, and had to avoid electric power lines and other utility lines.
A permit was required to cross the railroad tracks facing the museum.
Various sources provided funding for the move.
“We received $25,000 in tourist development funds secured by Pasco County Commissioner Ron Oakley, and $10,000 from the Joseph and Rose Herrmann Charitable Foundation,” said Stephanie Black, the museum’s director.
“Scott Black secured $5,000 from CSX Transportation,” added Black, who is no relation to city commissioner Black.
Steve Melton, who coordinated the log cabin’s relocation, said when the restoration is finished, museum visitors will see a pioneer home hand-hewed from whole trees to construct 30-foot log beams and floors that were squared by an axe.
“It was made from old growth cypress trees,” Melton explains, “and it really must be viewed to appreciate one of the best examples of Florida Cracker-style architecture I have ever seen in my life.”
Pioneer Florida Museum and Village features a collection of historic structures. In non-COVID times, it also is a popular venue for public and private events and school field trips.
Where: 15602 Pioneer Museum Road (1 mile north of Dade City)
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please arrive by 3:30 p.m., to tour the museum. Closed on Sunday, Monday and most holidays.
Cost: Adult, $10; Senior, $8; Student (including college with ID), $5; Children under 5, no charge
The museum is open, but has been hit hard by COVID-19. Concerns about potential spread of the virus has canceled many special fundraising events, weddings, family reunion and student field trips.
Info: For more about the museum, or if you would like to help it through these challenging times, call (352) 567-0262, or visit PioneerFloridaMuseum.org.
A brief history of the museum
In 1961, a prominent citizen of San Antonio donated 37 vehicles and tools to the Pasco County Fair Association, prompting the formation of the Pioneer Florida Museum Association, with 87 charter members.
Those charter members made it clear they wanted the museum “…to show that the men and women who were here before us, struggled, made do, and sometimes won…”
Initially located in a small building at the Pasco County Fairgrounds, the museum now sits on land donated by prominent attorney and rancher, William Larkin, and his wife, Emily.
Published July 22, 2020