BROOKSVILLE — Advocates hoping to save Chinsegut Hill and reopen the historic manor house there have snagged a slight reprieve.
The group had set Friday as the deadline to raise $75,000 to show public support for the project and persuade a private foundation to donate money to keep the site in public hands.
The plan calls for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to manage the property; the agency already manages the adjacent nature and environmental education center.
With a change in the schedule of the next meeting of the foundation's board, the deadline for raising the money now slides to June 10, according to Christie Anderberg, spokeswoman for the Friends of Chinsegut Hill.
The group needs the time. To date, members have raised $15,000, but they're still confident that there's public support to make up the difference.
At an open house last weekend, hundreds visited the site, many making donations. The scene was a mix of activities, including an art display, music and some historic re-enactment participants in costume playing roles of people affiliated with Chinsegut.
"The goal of the day was met,'' Anderberg said. "It was the perfect setting for all these things to happen.''
She said people could see the potential of what could be done on site if the property could be secured. Anderberg said she was encouraged because as she talked to visitors, she learned many had come not just from the immediate area, but Central Florida.
"Some people said they hadn't been there in years,'' she said. "Others said they had always wanted to come. It was a lot of new faces, which was really nice.''
At the start of the fundraising campaign, Friends president Jan Knowles explained in an open letter that the goal was to attain "a fully restored and financially sustainable manor house and meeting facility that is a well-known tourist destination, returning economic benefits to the community and serving current and future generations with engaging, educational programs about the cultural and natural history of the area.''
For 40 years, the University of South Florida ran the facility as a conference center. Two years ago, USF announced it could no longer do that and the property was put on the state's surplus property list.
The FWC worked for months toward a management agreement in hopes of getting support from the Tourist Development Council and the Hernando Historical Museum Association. That deal fell through and the Friends stepped up to try to save the hill.
The manor house, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of the last plantation houses in the state. Construction on the home began in the 1840s on a hill considered to be one of the highest in Florida.
The original point was named Tiger Tail Hill, but when Raymond and Margaret Drier Robins bought the property in 1904, they renamed it Chinsegut. The name is an Inuit word for "a place where lost things are found.''
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.