About a year ago, my first history column for The Laker/Lutz News posed the question: “Did President Calvin Coolidge have lunch in Dade City?”
Since that column published, on Aug. 19, 2015, new information has surfaced that keeps the question open.
At the July meeting of the Pasco County Historical Society, I reminded those gathered that Dade City didn’t appear to offer much back in 1929, when Coolidge was said to have stopped there for lunch.
There’s no doubt President Coolidge was in Florida that year, because he gave a speech at the dedication ceremony for Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales.
It’s possible he could have stopped at the Edwinola in Dade City, if he took a detour and came to the area on the Seaboard Airline Railroad.
The Edwinola opened as a hotel in 1912. There, Coolidge could have enjoyed the tea dances held with an orchestra at one end of the large porch.
But, the Valencia Restaurant was not open for business. Neither was the Crest Restaurant.
Lunch on Limoges would not serve its famous pecan chicken until 1981.
And, A Matter of Taste restaurant did not open until 1997.
So why does rumor have it that he lunched at the Gray Moss Inn?
Supposedly, there was a connection between Coolidge and the owners of the Gray Moss Inn. However, I was never able to confirm that lead.
After my first column was published, though, I heard from Susan Maesen, of Dade City.
She wrote: “Mr. Sanders, I am sorry I didn’t have the opportunity to give you information concerning this article.”
As the daughter of Jack Dudley, Susan has memories of her family running the Gray Moss Inn after the death of her grandmother.
“There were ledgers that each guest had to sign in,” she wrote. “I cannot verify that Coolidge signed a ledger. I can verify my dad telling me that he visited.”
In last year’s column, I indicated there were unconfirmed “tips” that the old guest registry wound up in the hands of Dr. R. D. Sistrunk, who lived a few blocks down the street across from the First Baptist Church.
Now, I know from Susan, that Dr. Sistrunk was her grandfather on her mother’s side.
But, did the Pasco County Historical Society know that Coolidge’s train may have stopped briefly in the early morning hours at Trilby?
Dade City Commissioner Scott Black, who grew up in Trilby, said he was told by the late Clifford Couey, that no one got off the train when it stopped in Trilby, before it departed from there traveling on the Orange Belt Railway en route to St. Petersburg.
I was unable to independently confirm that Coolidge’s train did stop in Trilby. But a year later, it can be documented that Coolidge appeared at the Vinoy Park Hotel, in St. Petersburg, on Jan. 24, 1930.
After my original column on Coolidge was published, Daniel Wright, of Citrus Springs, wrote: “Perhaps something new will turn up in a private collection that will confirm it one way or the other.”
That is still a real possibility.
So, please, look through your closets and check your attics. If you can find evidence that Coolidge visited Dade City in 1929, I’d love to see it and to share it with readers of this column, which is published regularly in The Laker/Lutz News.
Doug Sanders has a penchant for unearthing interesting stories about local history. His sleuthing skills have been developed through his experiences in newspaper and government work. If you have an idea for a future history column, contact Doug at .
Published August 10, 2016