Renovations are underway to the Historic Jeffries House in Zephyrhills.
The Zephyrhills Community Redevelopment Agency’s (CRA) general contractor, Restoration Concepts, recently completed the leveling of the building, at 38533 Fifth Ave. The contractor replaced and added piers under the structure, replaced the latticework and replaced rotten wood on the building’s exterior. Windows were repaired, too.
After the siding is scraped and sided, the historic house also will get a new paint job.
“They’re really moving along,” said Gail Hamilton, CRA director for the City of Zephyrhills. “They’ve raised the side of the building. It’s still a little off, but it’s a whole lot better than it was.
“We’re getting there. It’s going to be gorgeous when it’s done,” Hamilton said.
The porch floor was replaced, thanks to material and labor donations from Dwight Hopkins, a longtime city resident.
Hopkins contacted the city’s building official Bill Burgess, to see if he could volunteer to replace the porch himself, Hamilton said. Once approved, Hopkins purchased high-quality marine wood and constructed a new porch resembling the original.
The porch replacement was needed, Hamilton said.
“You couldn’t walk on it,” she said, referring to the prior condition of the floor. “The wood had rotted; the city had put up a ‘Do Not Enter’ sign. Dwight saw that… and he just thought the house deserved the best,” she said.
“I think that is something that is so great about a small community,” she added, commenting on Hopkins’ efforts.
The project’s final step will be to restore the building’s interior.
With a shoestring budget, the CRA director is currently soliciting bids to install a plumbing and electrical system.
“It wasn’t in my original budget, so I’m trying to get the best deal that I can,” said Hamilton, who was given a $50,000 budget from the city for the restoration of the building’s exterior.
Hamilton expects everything to be completed within the next three months, so the CRA and Main Street Zephyrhills Inc., can shift their daily operations into the building’s first floor.
The second floor will be open for any prospective Zephyrhills business in need of office space, Hamilton said.
“It would be an excellent incubator project,” she said. “I haven’t really created any guidelines or what exactly that would look like. I kind of was waiting to see if somebody was interested. …What a great problem that would be if I had four or five people interested in the second floor, and we try and take those people to the (city) council with a recommendation for use of the second floor.”
The City of Zephyrhills purchased the home — built in 1912 by Zephyrhills founder Capt. Harold B. Jeffries — for $111,000 in February 2014.
There was a possibility of adding $75,000 for restoration, but Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the appropriation which had been part of the budget adopted by the state legislature.
Preserving historic landmarks is important, Hamilton said.
“It is who we are and where we came from. Future generations will look back at us and determine if we were good stewards of our historical assets,” she explained. “It’s what makes Zephyrhills unique and different. If we don’t preserve our history, then we are just a spot in the road.”
Hamilton also noted: “If you walk down the street of any downtown, you should see the timeline: the evolution of the city.
“There should be homes and businesses and buildings that represent the different decades of that city, and really create that sense of history and place,” she explained. “You may not be crazy about mid-century architecture, but it shows a part of your history,” she said.
“And, all of those buildings should be preserved,” Hamilton said.
Published April 13, 2016