Holiday could soon have a new park — but the plan involves demolishing a historic house.
Pasco County’s library system is proposing to tear down the Charles B. Anderson House, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, and build a park in its place. The library will seek public input on the project at a Wednesday evening meeting.
The library system says the house isn’t in good enough condition to be used and that a park would be a valuable use of the land.
“We wanted to give something to the community,” said Bob Harrison, marketing and communications program manager for Pasco County Libraries.
But some local historians would prefer that the house be preserved for its historic value.
“We need to be preserving history, not tearing it down,” local historian and author Jeff Cannon said.
The Anderson house sits next to the Centennial Park Library in Holiday. It’s an unassuming building, despite a plaque to the right of the door announcing its presence on the National Register of Historic Places. Its windows are boarded up, and on one of the back walls its white paint is chipped.
But when the house was built in 1938 for successful citrus grower Charles Anderson, its amenities set it apart from other rural homes. An electric garage door opener, a telephone room, a solar water heater and continuous electrical outlets were among those features, according to a 1996 registration form for the National Register of Historic Places. Mahogany paneling on the inside “conveys the impression of luxuriousness,” the form says.
The county bought the house in 1981 because of its historical value, the St. Petersburg Times reported in 1986. Plans fell through to use it as a library, because the floors weren’t strong enough to hold the books, or as a center for abused spouses, because residents opposed the idea.
In 1985, the Pasco Fine Arts Council leased the house for 30 years at a rate of $1 a year. The council restored the house with the help of about 40 volunteers, and a fine arts center opened there the next year.
Working there was “good and bad,” current arts council board chair Bob Langford recalled. He liked working in a historic building, but the house wouldn’t stay cool in the summer or warm in the winter. The arts council also had a problem with vandalism.
“While we were there, it was just deteriorating,” said Langford, who is also president of the West Pasco Historical Society, and the county didn’t put in the money to fix it.
The arts council moved out in 2015 as the house’s condition got worse. It’s been vacant ever since.
Now, the library system wants to demolish the house and build a park with a playground, an amphitheater, gathering spaces and a pathway. Holiday doesn’t have many places where residents can spend time in nature and with each other, says a report from PaleoWest, a consulting firm working on the project that specializes in cultural and heritage resource management.
“Holiday doesn’t really have a whole lot of parks, neighborhood parks,” Harrison said. “So that was how we came up with that, and we thought it would be an excellent use of the property.”
Langford and Cannon, who is also a member of the West Pasco Historical Society, would prefer the house be repaired or moved to another location. That could involve having a nonprofit do the repairs itself in return for the ability to use the house, Cannon suggested.
“Our interest is in saving history, as opposed to doing away with it,” Langford said.
PaleoWest’s report says repairing and rehabilitating the house would cost too much. The report proposes demolishing it and taking steps to preserve its history, such as putting a historical marker where it now stands, creating library exhibits about it and documenting it under the Historic American Building Survey.
In a letter attached to the report, Florida’s state historic preservation officer recommends capturing the building’s history in this way if preserving the house isn’t feasible.
The park would be named Anderson Family Park, after the house’s original owners and occupants.
Those steps should be taken if the house can’t be preserved, Cannon said. But he’d rather see it saved.
“This stuff needs to be preserved so that we can tell the future generations what was here,” Cannon said. “And the citrus industry in Florida is dying. It’s going away. You know, another 50 years from now nobody’s going to even remember it.”
The plan to tear down the house isn’t final, Harrison said. The library is seeking public input first, as part of a required process of considering how the project would affect the historic site.
“We want to do it right,” Harrison said.
Wednesday’s meeting will start at 6 p.m. at Centennial Park Library in Holiday, at 5740 Moog Road. Members of the community can also join virtually or submit written comments. See more information here: https://www.pascocountyfl.net/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/7806