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MAKE A HOUSE CALL TO HISTORY

For 10 years, the Walsingham House stood empty on the grounds of Heritage Park.

On Saturday, the house will open to the public for the first time as a re-creation of an old-time doctor's home and office. It will be one of the highlights of the annual Country Jubilee at the park.

"This project has been in the works for several years," said Ken Ford, the park's director. "We wanted to have a typical doctor's office in the 1920s in Pinellas County."

Built in 1915 by Jessie Ancil Walsingham, the house was on Old Ridge Road about a quarter of a mile from Heritage Park. In 1984, the Anchor Construction Company donated and moved the structure to Heritage Park.

The first floor of the two-story rusticated block house with an upper-frame structure has been restored to resemble a typical doctor's home and office. It contains a parlor, a small waiting area, an examining room, a "birthing room" and an office. The only modern conveniences are air-conditioning and some updated lighting.

"Doctors didn't have the kind of wealth they have today," Ford explained. "Their office was usually located on the first floor of the home, and the family lived upstairs."

An old fee chart on the wall tells how modest a living a physician might have made. Examination in the office requiring considerable time cost $3 to $5; an ordinary office prescription was $1 or $2; house calls were $6. If there was another patient in the same house, the additional fee was $5. If the doctor was treating a contagious disease, there was an extra charge.

Ford said that almost everything in exhibit was donated. The idea for the doctor's home got its start in 1988 when the Pinellas County Medical Society approached Ford about displaying a medical exhibit.

The medical society raised about $5,000 to restore some furniture and install the air conditioning. The group also purchased some old pieces including a wood-and-leather examining table built about 1900 and some antique medical instruments.

Park volunteer John Callahan, who is a respiratory therapist and owner of a Largo medical supply company, and Don Ivey, the park's curator of collections, gathered and restored items for the house. They have been working on the project for about seven months.

Among the more unusual antique items in the house are a 1928 x-ray machine, a wooden "birthing chair" and a newly acquired apothecary cabinet complete with old-time drug labels.

Ford said the cabinet was donated by a Palm Harbor couple after the "no-name storm" of two years ago. It was in a house they owned on St. Joseph Sound, on Indian Bluff Island. The cabinet was damaged by water, but volunteers were able to restore it.

Spread over 21 acres, Heritage Park also is home to nine other historic dwellings, a church, a school, a grocery store/gas station and a railroad station, complete with a red caboose.

IF YOU GO

The 17th annual Country Jubilee, sponsored by the Pinellas County Historical Society, will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Heritage Park, 11909 125th Street N, Largo. Highlights will include arts and crafts from more than 125 dealers; a flea market; a food court; musical entertainment; clowns and face painting for children; and spinning, weaving, wood-laying and other demonstrations. The historical homes will be open. Free, but donations appreciated. A free shuttle bus will operate between Heritage Park and the Walsingham Gospel Temple, 137th St. N and Walsingham Road, between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Call 582-2123.

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