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Donations add up to Cracker kitchen

The oldest Cracker home in west Pasco County is getting an authentic Florida kitchen to go with it.

Baker House, a 113-year-old wooden structure on Moog Road, took two years to restore, from 1990 to 1992. Since then, visitors to the historical house have donated money toward further work.

It took this long to raise the estimated $10,000 for the kitchen, which will be separate from the house.

"The kitchen in any Cracker house was a separate building to prevent fire (in the main house) or to keep things cool in the summer," said Mary Vinson, the project's publicity chairwoman. "The one at Baker House was torn down about 50 years ago."

Re-creating a Cracker kitchen will take some work.

"It's a reproduction from the ground up," said Bette Farmerie of Farmerie Custom Homes. Her business is donating the labor to create the 180-square-foot wooden kitchen. "When they first started the project . . . the bids were outrageous," she said.

At the time, County Commissioner Ann Hildebrand, who is vice president of the Baker House Restoration Project board of directors, asked around Pasco's construction community to see if anyone was interested in volunteering for the project.

"I've got the raise-the-hand syndrome," Farmerie said with a chuckle.

The kitchen is designed to re-create the look and feel of the late 19th century. The original kitchen, built with the house in 1882, used to be just east of the house, where the parking lot is now.

The new kitchen will be near the southwest corner of the house, Vinson said. It will not be a working kitchen, because of fire restrictions, but it will have a number of authentic touches: a dry sink, a wood-burning stove, a long wooden table for food preparation and a pie safe, the precursor to the icebox.

"It hasn't been easy," Vinson said about funding the project. "We've had fish fries, yard sales, quilt raffles and Cracker festivals over the last two years to raise money. Just whatever we can, a little bit here and a little bit there."

Help came from other sources, too. Kenneth Watts, an industrial education teacher at Marchman Vocational School, brought his students to the site this month to help with the board-and-batten construction, Farmerie said. "If we would have had that done professionally, it would have cost us a fortune," she said. "It was a real savings."

The Baker House, 5744 Moog Road, closed to individuals this weekend and will reopen in September. However, groups may arrange for tours of the house by calling (813) 848-6637 or (813) 849-1627. Admission is free, but donations toward the upkeep of the house and the grounds are accepted.