BROOKSVILLE — The residents of Spring Lake already know the value of their community center.
It is, after all, where they gather one Tuesday a month to share casseroles and camaraderie, to hold their neighborhood garage sales, their annual barbecue and where the ladies gather to quilt.
Now, the building has a new level of recognition.
On Oct. 20, the structure was officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places, county officials announced this week.
"We're thrilled about it,'' said Dick Thompson, a 34-year resident of the area. "Not every old building gets that.''
"The National Register provides recognition that the property is deemed by the federal and state governments to be significant in our history at the national, state, and/or local levels. Most properties are significant because of their local significance,'' according to materials Secretary of State Kurt Browning sent to the county confirming the listing.
The county, Spring Lake residents and local historian Roger Landers have been working for the designation for the past few years. They plowed through old records kept by the School District and the county and gathered oral histories from some who still remember the construction project to piece together the rock building's history, Thompson said.
The cornerstone is marked 1938, said Gregg Sutton, assistant county engineer.
The unique structure was built by the Works Progress Administration, crafted out of all-local materials from the timbers to the limestone. It served as a community center, and for a time, a kitchen to an adjacent school house long since gone from the site, Sutton said.
The research showed that the WPA estimate of the project cost was $11,860 and called for 20,904 man-hours of certified labor.
Thompson said the building still includes a small library and served awhile as a polling place until the church opened up across the street, offering modern amenities like heating and air conditioning.
Little inside has changed except for the wiring to light the interior and new appliances. Also unchanged is the purpose of the structure as a community gathering place for 70-plus years, he said.
The county maintains the structure, and Thompson said workers do a good job. That makes it inviting for the community's use and they use it for all kinds of events ranging from stage productions to guest speakers.
Recently they had a clogging demonstration. But the monthly pot lucks are the glue holding Spring Lake together.
"We use it as a place where you kind of meet and greet your neighbors,'' Thompson said. "It's kind of an old-Florida thing.''
The side benefit of the monthly get together? "We have a lot of good cooks,'' he said.
But the main benefit of having a place to gather and residents wanting to bond with their community is an atmosphere where neighbor is always there for neighbor. The rural yet friendly atmosphere epitomized by the community center itself is why Thompson said he settled in the area.
He knows that is as rare as the structure.
"People are so mobile right now,'' Thompson said. "They just don't have the time to do this anymore.''
Sutton said the county plans some formal recognition of the National Register listing to be announced later.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.