Sunday, February 25, 2018
News Roundup

Historical Society faces challenge in leasing South Ward School

CLEARWATER — As the city nears its centennial, local history buffs and an iconic sports club are teaming up in an attempt to secure their future on the site of the city's oldest school.

The cramped two-story Plumb House, a late 19th century structure, is the current home of the Clearwater Historical Society. It just isn't big enough to display documents and other bygone-era items, most of which sit in boxes, said group president Bill Wallace.

Enter the South Ward School and around 20,000 square feet of history-rich, unused space.

Closed in 2008, the elementary school buildings on S Fort Harrison Avenue carry their own historical heft. The school dated to the 1870s, and it occupied the S Fort Harrison site since the dawn of the 1900s.

Ever since the school closed, Wallace and others have eyed South Ward as an ideal space to tell the story of the city's past while preserving a key part of it.

"It presents that kind of opportunity," said Wallace, elected head of the 300-member society last month.

The multi-building site could also house a museum detailing the decades-long history of the Clearwater Bombers, a renowned fast-pitch softball team.

The Bombers' Legacy Group — about 80 members strong — backs the idea, said Wayne Dees, the group's president.

"This is a perfect opportunity for us. Where else could you get a building for what the School Board wants to lease it to us?" Dees said.

The groups are negotiating a lease with the Pinellas County school system that would give them use of the buildings for a nominal fee for decades. The details are still being worked out, said Dean Robinson, a Historical Society board member.

A cheap lease doesn't solve the financial puzzle. Neither group has much cash on hand, and rehabbing the buildings and making them ADA-compliant is likely to run well into six figures.

Robinson and former Historical Society president David Allbritton approached the city for financial help, but the discussions went nowhere. For now, the group intends to raise money on its own, perhaps opening the site in stages.

The challenge of a crowded fundraising field — both Ruth Eckerd Hall and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium are engaged in major rainmaking efforts — isn't lost on Wallace. But there is never a great time to ask for cash, he said.

"There's usually not a line of people waiting to give you money," he said.

The Historical Society board met Tuesday to mull over its options, including interest from a Tampa developer who has proposed turning the South Ward site into an assisted-living facility and turning over the oldest building, a 4,000-square-foot two-story building at the front of the property, to the group for a museum.

That idea has divided the board. Robinson and Wallace oppose it.

"We'll hardly have any space to grow in the future," Robinson said.

Wallace acknowledges that significant hurdles must be overcome to realize his dream, but he remains optimistic.

"Those are all obstacles you're going to find any time," he said.

Charlie Frago can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4159. Follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago.

Comments
Congress has ideas on gun violence, but no consensus

Congress has ideas on gun violence, but no consensus

Associated PressWASHINGTON — After a 10-day break, members of Congress are returning to work today under hefty pressure to respond to the outcry over gun violence. But no plan appears ready to take off despite a long list of proposals, including many...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
White House will see if North Korea is serious about talks

White House will see if North Korea is serious about talks

Associated PressWASHINGTON — The White House said Sunday that it would wait and see whether a new overture by North Korea for talks with the United States means it is serious about disarming, a step President Donald Trump and other world leaders agre...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Mexican president won’t visit White House after Trump reportedly ‘lost his temper’ in call

Mexican president won’t visit White House after Trump reportedly ‘lost his temper’ in call

Tentative plans for a trip by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to the White House have been scrapped after he and President Donald Trump spoke by phone and tangled once again over Trump’s plans to erect a border wall, according to news reports.Th...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pasco deputies: New Port Richey man shot during home invasion

Pasco deputies: New Port Richey man shot during home invasion

A New Port Richey man was in critical condition on Sunday after being shot during a home invasion that the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said may be drug related.Detectives say a call was received at 2:22 a.m. Sunday that the resident at 4429 Tidal P...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Students, parents make emotional return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas campus

Students, parents make emotional return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas campus

Liam Kiernan’s first stop when he reentered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for the first time on Sunday afternoon was the band room. The 15-year-old took his dad to the closet where he hid during the shooting."I walked in and showed him, that’s...
Updated: 1 hour ago
In Black Panther, kids finally see themselves starring on screen

In Black Panther, kids finally see themselves starring on screen

TAMPA — Ezekiel Mills went to the movies on Saturday and after two hours and 15 minutes of make-believe felt something the 13-year-old should be able to feel all the time."I kind of felt special," he said.The movie was Black Panther, the story of the...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Billy Graham had pride and regret on civil rights issues

Billy Graham had pride and regret on civil rights issues

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The Rev. Billy Graham was single-minded when he preached about God, prefacing sermon points with the phrase "The Bible says ..." Yet he had a complicated role in race relations, particularly when confronting segregation in his nati...
Updated: 3 hours ago
5 dead after tornado, flooding from central US storms

5 dead after tornado, flooding from central US storms

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The death toll rose to at least five on Sunday after severe thunderstorms swept through the central U.S., spawning a tornado that flattened homes, gale force winds and widespread flooding from the Upper Midwest to Appalachia.The s...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Michelle Obama’s memoir ‘Becoming’ will be released in November

Michelle Obama’s memoir ‘Becoming’ will be released in November

Former first lady Michelle Obama’s first book post-White House will be a memoir titled "Becoming" that will hit book shelves on November 13."Becoming," which publishing company Penguin Random House called "unusually intimate" in a news release Sunday...
Updated: 4 hours ago
NRA spokeswoman becomes new face of gun rights movement

NRA spokeswoman becomes new face of gun rights movement

CHICAGO — Dana Loesch is the new public face of the National Rifle Association, an organization long associated with older white men. At 39, she’s poised, photogenic and a skilled public speaker, yet she’s not softening the message of the NRA as it b...
Updated: 4 hours ago