BROOKSVILLE — Despite the optimism that came from raising thousands of dollars to help spare the historic Chinsegut Hill Manor House, the group spearheading the effort learned Friday that the state agency that wanted to partner with them is pulling its support.
Jan Knowles, president of Friends of Chinsegut Hill, said her group was told by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which also manages the adjacent nature and environmental education center, that the agency was unable to get funding for the program.
Knowles said that the news dealt a blow to her group, which was well on its way to raising $75,000 in private donations needed to restore and run the facility.
"We had hoped that the FWC was going to come through," Knowles said. "But they're having to bite the bullet just like everybody."
With its wrap-around verandas and picturesque setting, the Manor House and its out building served as a conference center operated by the University of South Florida for 40 years. 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 group raised more than $30,000 in six weeks and had a promise of up to an additional $25,000 promised by an Atlanta foundation if FWC had secured its funding.
While the pullout by the FWC was a setback, Knowles said her organization will continue looking for another entity interested in taking over the lease of the property.
Although donors are being contacted to see if they wish to have their checks refunded, Knowles hopes they will stick with her organization until all options are exhausted.
"We're not done by any means," she said. "This wonderfully historic property needs to always be accessible to the public. We're going to do our best to make sure that it stays that way."
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.