ZEPHYRHILLS — As Zephyrhills City Council members move forward on a proposal to buy and restore the historic Capt. H.B. Jeffries House, they are also considering a variety of uses for the building.
The Jeffries House, 38533 5th Avenue, was built about 1910-11 by the founder of Zephyrhills, Captain H.B. Jeffries. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Over the years, it has been used as a residence and for business offices, but recently has fallen into disrepair.
Council members are getting closer to a decision on the home. On Monday, City Manager Jim Drumm will present an appraisal on the Jeffries House to the city council in a Community Redevelopment Agency meeting. The report will help the council members determine whether to use city funds to purchase it.
If the council decides to pursue the project, another appraisal will be ordered to confirm the initial appraisal's accuracy, Zephyrhills City Clerk Linda Boan said. Drumm also is waiting to receive an architect's report on the home.
At a recent city council meeting, Ron Bushaw of Plant City proposed that the building be used as a museum to house a collection of World War II uniforms and other memorabilia he and his wife, Lila, own. He calls their collection “American Heroes.”
The Bushaws own more than 360 original World War II uniforms. The collection contains at least one uniform from each major unit from all theaters of the war.
“My appreciation of WWII veterans began when I enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 17,” Bushaw writes on his American Heroes website. “At the time of my enlistment most of the drill instructors were WWII veterans who had made a career of the service. They made it very clear to us that their primary task was to pass along to each new recruit the survival skills they had learned in the deserts of North Africa, mountains of Sicily, hedgerows of Europe and the jungles of the Far east. I was so impressed by the dedication of this group that I decided to honor them by collecting an original uniform from every major unit that served during the war.”
Bushaw brought examples of his collection to the council meeting, including a case he said was once owned by American fighter ace Lt. Col. Gregory “Pappy” Boyington of the Black Sheep Squadron.
Council members expressed interest in the possibility of using the Jeffries House for a World War II museum. Councilman Charlie Proctor said he had WWII memorabilia that he would be willing to put on display, too.
Mayor Danny Burgess, who proposed the idea of buying the Jeffries House, said a WWII museum would be a fitting use for the building since Jeffries was a Union Army officer. He said a military theme would fit Zephyrhills' origins as a retirement community for Civil War soldiers and be a draw for revitalizing the historic Main Street.
He also said it would complement Zephyrhills' other museum, the Zephyrhills Museum of Military History in the historic WWII barracks at the city airport.
Zephyrhills City Council President Lance Smith was impressed with Bushaw's proposal, but added that Zephyrhills already has two museums. In addition to the Zephyrhills Museum of Military History, the Depot Museum on South Avenue showcases Zephyrhills history.
“I think we have to put it out for a request for proposal,” he said “That's what we usually do. That way everybody has an equal opportunity.”
Smith said the Jeffries building should be preserved, calling it the most historic structure in town. But he added that its purchase will depend on the cost.
“I guess it depends on what the purchase price is and what we determine it's going to cost to keep it maintained on an annual basis,” Smith said. He said he would also like to see the house generate some revenue.