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Sulphur Springs Museum and Culture Center undergoing changes

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SULPHUR SPRINGS — A new coat of paint is giving a fresh look to an annex building at the Sulphur Springs Museum and Culture Center.

About eight apprentices with a painter’s union recently volunteered four days of labor. They pressure washed, caulked and painted the one-story block building immediately behind the museum at the Mann-Wagnon Memorial Park at 1101 River Cove St.

In a few months the refurbished building will be the only one remaining on the property after a handful of Florida-Cracker style buildings at the park —including the museum — are demolished. Three nonprofit groups, including the Sulphur Springs museum, Community Stepping Stones and Moses House, will move into a single new building at the park.

County officials will create a “passive park” where the demolished buildings now stand, said Tom Fass, Hillsborough County’s director of real estate and facilities services.

County officials determined more than a year ago that existing buildings, which are in a flood zone, no longer meet building codes.

The county also is seeking to follow instructions in Cecile Wagnon’s will which state she wanted only museum buildings on the property. Wagnon, who died in 1961, donated nearly 2 acres of her riverfront homestead and three cottages.

The county’s parks, recreation and conservation department for years housed its administrative headquarters at the park.

Nearly $500,000 is budgeted for the project, including $98,000 from Wagnon’s estate. Work could begin next year on the approximately 4,000-square-foot building.

Artwork by the late folk artist and Spring Hill resident Taft Richardson could become a centerpiece at the new structure. Richardson, who died in 2008, sculpted crucifixes, lizards, fish and the head of John the Baptist from bones of dead animals.

Fass said. “It provides a sense of inspiration and what could be achieved,” he said.

The Sulphur Springs museum has struggled to find resources to open inside what was once Wagnon’s residence. The building has been used for meetings and administrative offices, and the headquarters for the museum’s youth program, Teen Challenge.

The work by the painter’s union brings the enterprise a step closer to its goal, Robinson said.

The annex building went from institutional grey to mint green with a darker trim. A wood pavilion with a tin roof was stained, and sidewalks were pressure washed.

“They’ve really done a great thing,” said Norma Robinson, museum founder. She estimates the work would have cost several thousand dollars — an amount the nonprofit museum does not have.

“This building was in need of a little repair, I guess,” said Paul Orvosh, coordinator with the Riverview-based I.U.P.A.T. Orvosh said the union does community outreach with painters and apprentices providing unpaid services to groups such as the museum and Habitat for Humanity.

When the new building is completed, the museum will display local artifacts, memorabilia and oral histories which for now are in storage. Robinson said the teens will help gather oral histories.

“We want them to learn to conduct interviews with residents to get their stories,” Robinson said. “This is one of the things we want them to know, what makes history.”

ksteele@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7652

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