West Pasco Historical Society asks for city help to repair its building

The West Pasco Historical Society Museum is in need of renovations, but with only about $8,500 in the bank, the group needs help. The society is asking the city of New Port Richey for $20,000 in matching grants over two years.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

The West Pasco Historical Society Museum is in need of renovations, but with only about $8,500 in the bank, the group needs help. The society is asking the city of New Port Richey for $20,000 in matching grants over two years.

NEW PORT RICHEY — When it was first moved to Sims Park in 1981, the old Seven Springs schoolhouse did not seem a promising new home for the West Pasco Historical Society.

The roof was off, windows were smashed, doors were broken and "frazzled pieces of wiring hung from the remaining boards," the society's first president, Julie Obenreder, would later write in a journal.

"Faint hearts would never have undertaken the job of restoring the old house into a purposeful building," she wrote.

But the society raised money to do just that, turning the building into a quaint museum that houses everything from Seminole and Timucuan Indian artifacts to old photographs and local history books to children's toys and glassware from days long gone by.

Now, nearly 30 years later, the building needs help again.

Society members are asking the city for as much as $20,000 in matching grants over the next two years to help pay for exterior and interior renovations to the 1920s schoolhouse.

The exterior wood siding has deteriorated and needs to be replaced. The interior wood panels, installed in the early 1980s, are rotting. The roof leaks.

"It's just going to get more expensive the longer we wait," said Bob Hubach, a 67-year-old retiree in Gulf Harbors who serves as the society's second vice president.

The society wants to do the exterior work — it has a bid of about $17,000 — this summer and the interior next year.

Caprena Latimore, the city's redevelopment manager, said the city's match could come from New Port Richey's grant program fund. The historical society pays the city $1 a year to lease the land beneath the building.

City Council members, meeting tonight as directors of the Community Redevelopment Agency, will consider the group's request for grant money.

Like a lot of small, nonprofit groups, the historical society has struggled with both membership and fundraising over the years. The society, which has about $8,500 in the bank, has about 200 members.

It is a cadre of about 25 dedicated volunteers, mostly retirees, who keep things going — greeting visitors, giving tours to groups such as the Boy Scouts and the Red Hat Society and organizing a fashion show that raises about $3,000 each year.

Hubach said the group will step up fundraising to help pay for the renovations, and plans to ask for material donations and to see if a bank can loan some money.

Latimore said the society hasn't asked for much help from the city over the years.

"That building needs some desperate help," she said.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

Fast facts

If you go

The West Pasco Historical Society and Library, at 6431 Circle Blvd., is open from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. To volunteer, call (727) 847-0680.

West Pasco Historical Society asks for city help to repair its building 05/11/09 [Last modified: Monday, May 11, 2009 9:04pm]

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