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'Picture house' to make way for pharmacy

Driving on U.S. 41, south of Brooksville, you may have seen what locals called the "picture house.''

It was the collapsing concrete building decorated with painted panels just across from the entrance of Spring Hill Drive.

If you looked closer, you would have seen skillfully rendered landscapes; Florida scenes, mostly, such as swamps framed by cabbage palms, with a few alpine vistas thrown in for good measure.

They were painted by an artist who signed one of the paintings "Bard,'' and who operated a studio out of the building in the early 1960s.

"It was just beautiful,'' said Maxine Anglin, 81, who lived nearby. "Even the windows were painted.''

Bard, who was white and a native of Kentucky, painted in a lush style similar to the famous group of African-American artists, the Highwaymen, said David Rivera, a Brooksville landscape painter.

Also like them, Rivera said, Bard apparently "wanted to catch the tourists' eyes. He wanted to sell them a piece of Florida.''

Which makes the picture house part of a long tradition in our state, part of our history.

But, as of 2:30 p.m. Thursday, it was gone, demolished to make way for a CVS pharmacy.

Though the company doesn't plan to build the store for at least a year, safety considerations prompted the developer to tear down the picture house and other vacant buildings on the 3-acre site, said CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis, who promised the company would try to save the paintings.

"The important thing is, we want to make sure (the artwork) is removed before demolition.''

"I don't see how we can,'' said Keith Steward, an equipment operator for Sonny Glasbrenner Inc., the Clearwater demolition company, who pointed out the paint had been applied directly to the concrete block.

He climbed into his front-end loader, and seven minutes later had reduced the walls to rubble.

That's what we get for neglecting a local landmark.

A product of the skill and imagination of one of our former neighbors, a creation inspired by a historic opportunity — tourists driving up and down U.S. 41 — will be replaced by a stand-alone CVS, the sixth in Hernando County and roughly the 681st in the state.

Oh, I know. Economic reality. This property, at the crossroads of major highways, is zoned for commercial construction. The picture house, formerly owned by the Lykes family, has been used for nothing other than storage since the early 1980s.

So maybe it couldn't be saved. Still, its loss perfectly illustrates a point made by the Hernando Preservation Foundation, a private group that has urged the county to identify and protect historic and archaeological sites.

We should know the significance of buildings before they are torn down and discuss how and whether they can be preserved. We shouldn't have to listen to hollow, last-minute promises from distant corporations.

Which brings me to CVS, which, in my opinion, is due for the kind of political backlash that helped put the brakes on Wal-Mart's seemingly limitless expansion plans. The pharmacy's practice of building stores on every available corner is an insult to the public, one that shows CVS doesn't care about the character of the towns and counties where it does business.

If you don't believe me, check out its stores' paint jobs — always off-white, no different from one another and only slightly different from our five tan-colored Walgreens.

They aren't exactly picture houses, are they?

'Picture house' to make way for pharmacy 07/10/08 [Last modified: Saturday, July 12, 2008 7:33pm]
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