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Thursday, Jul 31, 2014

City moves to buy building steeped in local history


Published:

ZEPHYRHILLS — Zephyrhills City Council members took a step closer to buying the historic Jeffries House on Main Street Monday evening, authorizing Mayor Danny Burgess and City Manager Jim Drumm to begin negotiating a purchase price.

Commissioner Lance Smith made the motion to authorize negotiations and order a second appraisal on the house. Commissioner Charlie Proctor seconded the motion. It passed 4-1, with Commissioner Kent Compton opposed.

A report from an appraiser said the 1912 home of Zephyrhills founder Capt. H.B. Jeffries was worth $130,000. The council had been waiting on that figure and a report from a historic architect before making a decision on whether to pursue purchasing the house.

In June, Burgess proposed that the city purchase the home, calling it a “moral imperative.”

“It’s part of our history,” he said. “I can think of no better domain worthy of preservation.”

The Jeffries House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Over the years, it has been used as a residence and business offices. The building has recently fallen into disrepair.

Historic building architect John R. Link of Kissimmee encouraged council members to pursue buying and restoring the home to protect it.

“That structure is a beautiful structure,” Link said. “This is a beautiful, beautiful house. The appraisal is excellent. … You should purchase it; you’ve got to control what happens to that house.”

Link said the home is not in as bad a condition as had been assumed. He said there is some cosmetic damage and termite damage, and the front porch will need to be replaced, but the inside floors are finished and the roof is “excellent.”

He also said the wheelchair ramp is in mint condition. He added that the city could not ask for a better location.

“This is a fantastic property,” he said. “It’s got history; it’s got credibility. What can I say? I feel like I’m at a Miss America Pageant.”

Link also gave the second apartment structure, sometimes referred to as the carriage house, a good report. He said it was built in about 1920. Though the stairs are “scary,” he said the apartment house has character.

“The garage apartment looks like Bonnie and Clyde lived there, or Ma Barker,” he said. “It’s aesthetically beautiful.”

Compton asked where the money would come from to purchase the home. Drumm said there are several options available, including Penny for Pasco funds.

Compton also asked if there are grants available for such a project. Drumm said not for the purchase, but there may be some for renovations.

Drumm also said Center State Bank, which holds the mortgage, is willing to reduce the price as a donation in exchange for some recognition.

Tim Pierson, president of the Center State Bank in Zephyrhills, had reported to council members in June that the asking price was $150,000.

Link said that the building will require about $2,000 a year for maintenance.

A variety of uses have been proposed for the building if the council decides to purchase it.

Ron Bushaw of Plant City told council members at a recent meeting that the building could be a museum to house a collection of World War II uniforms and other memorabilia that he and his wife own.

Proctor said Monday the city already has a World War II museum and suggested it could be used as a Civil War museum, since Jeffries was a Civil War officer.

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