BROOKSVILLE — For nearly 40 years, it was one of Hernando County's most prominent landmarks, drawing visitors from across the country to ogle the splendor of the year-round celebration of Christmas.
However, the glory days of the former Rogers' Christmas House Village are little more than a fading memory. The once-bustling edifice on Saxon Avenue, near downtown Brooksville, is little more than a group of decaying buildings looking for a new owner.
That scenario could happen when the 1.1-acre parcel and its five buildings are put up for auction at noon Feb. 28. Bidding will start at $200,000.
According to Greg Farner, an agent with Bay Area Auction Services, the property is being sold "as is," and a potential buyer likely will need a sizable amount of cash for repairs to the frame buildings, some of which have extensive water and termite damage.
"There are some serious issues that will need to be addressed," Farner said. "But the right person will see its potential for either commercial or residential purposes, and that it's in a great location."
The property has been vacant since 2010, when George Rodriguez decided he could no longer afford to keep running the business he had bought from the family of founder Margaret "Weenie" Rogers Ghiotto two years earlier. Although he once considered buying the property, Rodriguez said Monday he's no longer interested.
"It's too far gone for me," Rodriguez said. "It would probably take at least a million dollars to fix everything, and I don't have the time or money to do that anymore."
After it opened in 1971, the Christmas House quickly earned a niche in the community. Billboards along Interstate 75 lured travelers, who enjoyed roaming the grounds and exploring its unique displays. After Ghiotto died in 2006, the business went through a succession of owners before Rodriguez bought the business name and its inventory for $10,000.
Rodriguez found it difficult to keep the Christmas House magic alive. A series of bad business deals sapped needed capital. He was approached by two Hernando County art groups that expressed interest in leasing space for art studios and galleries. But the $375,000 asking price for the land and buildings proved to be too steep for Rodriguez.
Owner Weiland Rogers, who couldn't be reached for comment, seemed to have little interest in the property after Rodriguez closed the business. County records shows that about $23,750 is owed to the county and city in back taxes.
Farner said that any back taxes or other debts the property has incurred will be paid from the proceeds of the sale and will not be the responsibility of the new owners.
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.