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Dreams could soon become a reality at Chinsegut manor house

A new report about renovating the historic Chinsegut manor house north of Brooksville includes a "wish list" that until last week was more like a dream list.

I mean, who could realistically think about tearing up one of the home's porches just to replace it with a historically representative tongue-and-groove deck?

Who could contemplate rebuilding a widow's walk, another item on the list? Who could imagine paying $6,625 to fit the house with period-appropriate wood-frame window screens?

Not the Friends of Chinsegut Hill, which has long struggled to raise money a few thousand dollars at a time.

Not with all the other work that, according to the report by Preservation Resources Inc. of Brookville, is needed to keep the place from rotting to the ground.

The huge beams in the home's foundation are so termite-damaged that they have been squashed flat by the weight of the house.

Replacing them would cost $20,000, the report says. The price for a new roof, also a necessity, would be at least $32,000. Fixing the worst-fitting windows, the ones letting in rain, would come to $21,500. Ridding the house of lead, mold and asbestos will cost another $50,000.

For a long time, with very little public support, even these needed projects seemed out of reach. The prospect of paying for such repairs was so daunting that, as recently as last fall, the state was ready to sell the house to the highest bidder.

But suddenly the idea of making all the repairs seems less like a dream and more like a certainty.

Today, the Hernando County Commission is set to approve a lease agreement that was needed to keep the house off the auction block and help the Friends apply for preservation grants.

That the house has already been approved for one of these grants helped justify a much bigger, granddaddy of a grant — $1.5 million put into the 2013-14 state budget by local lawmakers, state Rep. Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill, and state Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby.

It sounds like a turkey. It's the responsibility of everyone involved to prove that it's not.

Chinsegut could be a gem of a conference center, a historic attraction, a symbol for the beauty of this part of Florida. It could bring in tourism revenue for the entire area. It could make the label that Pasco, Hernando and other nearby counties hung on themselves years ago — the Nature Coast — more than an empty marketing slogan.

But things have to be done right. The county and the Friends will need to promote the manor house with imagination and energy. They'll have to be careful with this new pot of money.

This report, now just a draft, seems like a good start. It cost $10,000 and, besides all the details about repairs, includes the best history of the manor house, with photos, I've ever seen.

It's available at tinyurl.com/qal4nko. Take a look, and you'll see that the place has huge potential — and represents a huge responsibility.

Dreams could soon become a reality at Chinsegut manor house 05/27/13 [Last modified: Monday, May 27, 2013 5:31pm]
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