Dade City Historical Walking Tour Opens: Official Launch to be November 9 at Pioneer Florida Museum
Story by Madonna Jervis Wise
In April of 2022, Margaret Angell, President of the Dade City Merchant’s Association, and Mary Katherine Mason Alston, a Veteran of the Marines (who owns Lanky Lassies Shortbread in Dade City), solicited historian/author, Madonna Wise to coordinate the research of historical Dade City from the view of a historical walking and QR tour. Historian Madonna, a retired school administrator and former history teacher, has written thirteen local history books, two of which focus heavily on Dade City where she worked with the preservation board and served for several years as the President of the Pasco Historical Association.
Mary Katherine was impressed with the self-guided historical tours of Savannah and St. Augustine (to name a few) and was inspired by Dennis and Nancy Alfonso, her neighbors who enjoyed weekend excursions throughout historical Florida towns to learn about the history. The Alfonsos often exclaimed, why doesn’t Dade City have a walking tour?
Soon the team recruited Melody Floyd of the Greater Dade City Chamber, Stephanie Bracknell Black, Executive Director of the Pioneer Florida Museum & Village, Imani Asukile, the founder of the East Pasco African American Historical Society, and Eric Baker who was then working on a newspaper prototype, The Dade City Wire.
The research was on warp speed. Stephanie convinced Wayne Sweat, a historian and re-enactor with a melodious voice reminiscent of Ken Burn’s Academy Award-winning Peter Coyote to do the extensive narration recording. In addition, retired Judge Lynn Tepper joined in to assist with consultation and editing. Madonna and Lynn had a history of projects throughout the years such as the Multiagency Council and Truancy Arbitration, so the opportunity to work together again was synergistic. In addition, Judge Tepper consulted on an array of locations where she had worked.
About ten months into the development, Madonna realized the tour was not going to come to fruition without the assistance of a technology guru. With some help from the neighboring community, she convinced Britton Janning to formulate an easy-to-use and appealing look. You can see the masterpiece which continues to unfold at https://dadecityhistory.org/
It Took a Village of Local Historians to Document this Historical Tour of Dade City
Many community members, merchant owners, and historians assisted with the project. Madonna sadly regrets that during the development of the project, the community lost Sylvia Young, Jeff Miller, Stanley Burnside, and Dennis Alfonso. Anybody reviewing the tour, however, will see these historians and others referenced as they provided consultation. (For example, a tape of Sylvia discussing the 1909 courthouse renovation she was responsible for on Stop 1; Stanley shares the silent movie theaters in Dade City in Stop 44, and Jeff Miller of fivay.org, consulted with Madonna on much of the tour before his passing.) Some of the board members of the Pioneer Museum such as Clyde Hobby consulted while historian Bill Dayton provided endearing anecdotes that reveal the authenticity and charm of Dade City.
The Dade City police chief James Walters, also a history buff, developed and recorded a safety message for walking through town, and narrated the history of the Dade City Marshals who evolved to ‘Chiefs’ in stop, #79. Walters brought in Bob Cabot to work on the fire Department history and SRO Peter Emerson who had collected law enforcement history over time.
In addition, the team wanted to make the tour a learning tool. Judge Tepper suggested the team consult with Dan Mitchell of Smart Start so that the tour might be used by up-and-coming entrepreneurs. There were examples of leadership and perseverance and so much more. The team met with Mitchell and shared some of the examples of teamwork and the qualities of leadership seen in the history of this frontier county-seat town. Here are a few of the stories that the team shared and a glimpse at a few stops.
Education is Incorporated into the Dade City Historical Walking Tour
Stop 1: 1909 Pasco County Courthouse: At the foundation of the tour in stop one, you will hear about Henry Coleman and William Ferguson who utilized timing and opportunity to grow their businesses. They were not afraid to relocate and rebuild. They looked strategically at the location of their mercantile and they anticipated change. See how they influenced the placement of the Seaboard Coastline Depot to bring merchants downtown. Then you will see how they worked to influence the establishment of the county seat by offering a space for the courthouse. TIMING, LOCATION, and ASSESSING SITUATION
Stop 8: Ford Garage: In 1914, M.C. Autry of Georgia rented the building on the corner of Pasco and Cherry Streets which was converted into an auto display shop. He expanded to operate Ford garages in Brooksville, Tarpon Springs, and Kissimmee. Examples of his innovative advertising which appeared in the weekly newspaper, the Dade City Banner, offer a glimpse into his PRESENTATION SKILLS.
A later occupant of the garage space, Gail Greenfelder, and her husband, Glen, used INNOVATION to convert the garage into a 150-seat restaurant with two banquet rooms. Using her culinary training she conceptualized a gourmet restaurant and honed SERVICE EXTRAORDINAIRE
Stop 10: Pasco Packing of Dade City was the world’s largest private-label frozen citrus concentrate firm for many decades. In this overview, look at the ADAPTABILITY as the citrus operation went from fresh to frozen concentrate which the Dade City packing plant largely perfected to canned and eventually even to dispensers in restaurants. Note they even used the byproducts for livestock feeds and fertilizer. See how they faced the adversity of the Great Depression to lead the field for over fifty years.
Stop 15: Bank of Pasco: PERSEVERANCE is the name of the game for the Bank of Pasco, the third ban chartered in the state in 1889. Surviving an attempted robbery in 1904, when safe blowers dynamited the large iron doors leading to the bank vault, it acquired the name of Old Reliable.” The Bank of Pasco was one of very few that weathered the Stock Market Crash of 1929. It closed for only ten days, and reopened with the unadulterated joy and relief of citizens. It overwhelmingly beat the odds by surviving the 1926 Real Estate Boom as well and then withstood the 1929 Stock Market Crash, as the only bank in Pasco County to survive!
Stop 22: Dade City Hardware and Case Hardware on 7th Street in Dade City were competitors and supportive of each other for several decades largely due to the PROFESSIONALISM AND COMRADERY of Robert “Mel” Case and John Newsome.
Stop 45: The Dade City Coca-Cola Bottling Company was integral to Dade City for over fifty years. Today the space is occupied by Olga’s Bakery, L.G. Edward’s Insurance, and more. George Gilbert as manager of the coke bottling plant was involved with the schools and civic groups, offering tours and donations. His weekly Coke advertisements championed the causes of the day: patriotism, family commitments, and COMMUNITY. George even installed a lookout tower on top of the Coke building so volunteer corps could be on the lookout for stray aircraft in the early years of World War II as his CIVIC INVOLVEMENT helped to build his store.
The tour is available now and can be viewed by phone, computer, or a walk. The team suggests chunking out a few locations at a time. The official launch of the tour will be on November 9th at 6 p.m. at the Lockey Room of the Pioneer Florida Museum & Village.
Respectfully, the tour is dedicated to Dennis and Nancy Alfonso and Judge Lynn Tepper.
Historical Stops on the Dade City Walking Tour
- Stop 1: 1909 Pasco County Courthouse
- Stop 2: 1926 Band Stand/Gazebo
- Stop 3: 1904 Sunnybrook Tobacco/ later George Massey Building
- Stop 4: 1905 Osceola Hotel
- Stop 5: 2016 City of Dade City Building
- (site of 1925 George Dayton Building (Florida boom) structure
- Stop 6: Hugh Embry Library (1963 bldg. with institution dating to 1904)
- Stop 7: 1916 City Hall Building
- Stop 8: 1916 Ford Garage now occupied by Kafe Kokopelli, Rolando’s Cigar Lounge & American Pizza Oven
- Stop 9: 1961 chartered Pioneer Florida Museum & Village
- Stop 10: 1936 Pasco Packing converted to Dade City Business Center with discussion of 1957 Evans Packing
- Stop 11: 1944-1946 World War II POW
- Camp at Naomi Jones Pyracantha Park
- Stop 12: 1912 Atlantic Coastline Depot
- (Cultural Museum)
- Stop 13: 1980 East Pasco Judicial Center (Robert Sumner)
- Stop 14: 1955 National Guard Armory
- Stop 15: 1889 Bank of Pasco County
- Stop 16: 1919 Bank of Dade City
- Stop 17: 1935 Sinclair Garage
- Stop 18: 3rd building of Coleman & Ferguson (now Lowman’s Law Firm)
- Stop 19: Two Krazy Chicks Antiques and More
- Stop 20: 1923 Highland Motors (BLOCK)
- Stop 21: 1947 Pasco Motors (Zone Worx)
- Stop 22: Dade City Hardware (Savoring Roots) with a discussion of Case Hardware
- Stop 23: Hardy & Lingle’s Department Store (Del Carmen Mexican Store)
- Stop 24: 1903 Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church
- Stop 25: 1893 Historic Pasco County Jail
- Stop 26: 1927 Dade City Grammar School (Rodney B Cox Elementary)
- Stop 27: 1912 Agnes Lamb Park (formerly Four Seasons)
- Stop 28: 1912 Edwinola Hotel and Park
- Stop 29: 1965: Sally Blackwood Studio
- Stop 30: 1967 Price Park (Francis “Frank” Price and Mildred Butts Huckabay Price)
- Stop 31: 1891 St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
- Sop 32: Gude’s Kumquat Factory and Kumquat Festival
- Stop 33: J.A. Peek & Son Feeds (Wozniak)
- Stop 34: 1926 (brick) Coleman & Ferguson Department Store
- Stop 35: 1905 Griffin Block (Treehouse Mercantile)
- Stop 36: 1922 Frederick Cosner Apartments
- Stop 37-38: Pasco Hardware & Supplies/Shofield Building, City Market Building, and Huckabay Building (Look for Top of the Town, Green Door, Two Ole Hens Too, etc.)
- Stop 39: 1887 Seaboard Airline Depot
- Stop 40: 1922 Greater Chamber of Commerce
- Stop 41: The 2007 Roy & Martha Hardy Trail
- Stop 42: 1920’s historic Sabal palm
- Stop 43: The Spoke (Pasco Lumber, Palmer House, etc.)
- Stop 44: 1948 Pasco Theatre (South State Bank) with a discussion of Ben Ali Theatre, Colonial Theatre, Crescent Theatre, The Queen, and Joy Lan Theater)
- Stop 45: 1916 Coca-Cola Building (Olga’s Bakery, Arts Eclectic, Edward Insurance) Stop 46: The 1959 Superior Electronics (Candy, Comics & Collectibles)
- Stop 47 1912 Sears & Roebuck House Kit from James Ambrose Peek homestead (now Lighthouse Books)
- Stop 48: Howard Avenue original split and only remaining intact brick road
- Stop 49: 1926 Hayes- Maters Garage (Farm House)
- Stop 50: 1926 Dade City’s Woman’s Club
- Stop 51: 1947 Dade City Garden Club
- Stop 52 The 1966 Polly Touchton Park
- Stop 53: Historic 5th Street (original entry into town)
- Stop 54: 1925 Telephone Building (Matter of Taste)
- Stop 55: 1953 Kiefer’s Pharmacy and Sporting
- Stop 56: 1922 Friedman/Larkin Building
- Stop 57: 1920’s Neal’s Sundries Building
- Stop 58: 1908 Williams Department Store & Lunch on Limoges
- Stop 59: 1916 Market/Barber Shop (now Book Shack)
- Stop 60: 1906 Touchton Drug Store Building
- Stop 61-62: 1921 Sarah Elizabeth “Essie” Coleman Building which houses Angel’s Tea Room and Lanky Lassie’s Shortbread
- Stop 63: 1921 Dade City Bakery which is replaced by an exquisite outdoor courtyard
- Stop 64-65: 1888 Treiber building housing Rustic Elegance and Dog Mania
- Stop 66: 1956 Moore Mickens Building
- Stop 67: 1926 Dade City Creamery which houses McClain & Afonso Law Firm
- Stop 68: 1956 Dade City Post Office
- Stop 69: 1886 St. Paul’s Missionary Baptist Church
- Stop 70: Mayor Wm Glenn Lester Park
- Stop 71:1913 Jack Bromley Shoe Repair
- Stop 72: Otis E & Naomi Scott Jones Nursing Home
- Stop 73: The 1945 Main Street Cleaners
- Stop 74: Edwards Guest Home/ Sherman Milton Funeral Home
- Stop 75: 1949 Harper Mickens Subdivision
- Stop 76: 1915 Dade City Fire Department
- Stop 77: 1908 Dade City Ice, Light & Power (TECO)
- Stop 78: Bonita Flower Shop/Dixie Auto
- Stop 79: 1889 Dade City Police Department
- Stop 80: 1957 Cow Palace & Chitlin Circuit
- Stop 81: 1898 South Florida Normal Institute
- Stop 82: Johnny’s Barbecue/ Steph’s Soul Food