Clearwater Historical Society members Helen Wilcox and Bill Wallace display an early map of Clearwater hand drawn by Kathleen Plumb and dated “1880-1900 A.D.” The map sits on top of a piano, the only original piece of furniture in the house.
CLEARWATER – Company’s coming, and Bill Wallace and Helen Wilcox were working around visitors to get the upstairs bedroom of the Plumb House ready in order to receive them.
“The bed was donated, but it needs slats,” said Wallace, whose term as president of the Clearwater Historical Society ends soon.
Wallace was working to restore an old bed donated to the CHS’s museum located at 1380 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. between Clearwater’s Ed C. Wright Park and the Ross Norton Recreation Complex.
With its wood floors, floral wallpaper and narrow boxcar paneling on the walls and ceiling, and walls lined with old photographs, the museum whispers of bygone days when a phone call was an event and family life didn’t include TV.
“We thought it would be more attractive if the house was furnished,” Wallace said crediting board member Lorelei Keif for coordinating the donations, which have included dressers, a settee, and other artifacts.
Photo courtesy of CLEARWATER HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Detail of the map drawn by Kathleen Plumb showing bounding deer, farming activity and just a scattering of houses in the Clearwater area just before the 20th century began.
Built about 1896, the house was located at the northwest corner of Lakeview and S. Fort Harrison avenues and began life as a store – probably a paint or hardware store, according to Wallace – with living quarters for the storekeeper on the second floor.
When Florence and Ralph Plumb, son of Clearwater’s first paid public school teacher, bought the house in the early 1900s, it was moved east into an abandoned orange grove.
Daughters Mary, co-founder of First Federal of Clearwater (forerunner of Fortune Federal Savings), and Kathleen, an early principal of South Ward School, lived in the house until the early 1980s when Dr. Charles Nach purchased it.
Nach donated the house to the CHS and paid for the move to its current location.
For a time, Clearwater Neighborhood Housing Services leased the house for office space; it was formally dedicated as a permanent museum in 1985.
Photo by ANNE W. ANDERSON
The museum houses a collection of Clearwater High School yearbooks dating from 1917 to 1989.
Since then, it’s been a labor of love for many whose names are linked with local streets and other landmarks as well as for more recently arrived residents.
“It’s a visible symbol of a heritage,” Wallace said explaining why the Plumb House museum is important. “Even if you weren’t born in Clearwater, you came from somewhere; and this is how your ancestors lived.”
Wallace, a retired science teacher who taught most recently at Kennedy Middle School, came by his interest in history early.
“My father had a collection of old newspapers,” Wallace said. “On rainy days I’d get them out and read through them.”
Wallace’s family, which also includes Jefford’s, in this area dates back to the post-Civil War era “except for my mother,” Wallace said. “She didn’t come here until 1924.”
Photo by ANNE W. ANDERSON
This pictures shows the kitchen of the Plumb House museum as it might have looked in the early 1900s.
Wilcox’s family, who pioneered the Anona area, includes McMullen’s and Booth’s.
Keif, however, is a newcomer.
“I’ve only been here 18 years; that’s a newcomer compared to the others,” she said with a laugh.
Nevertheless, Keif is grateful for the donations received.
“It’s so nice to know there are people willing and able to do that,” she said.
Donations are especially welcomed, since the Clearwater Historical Society does not receive any city funds.
“The city owns the grounds on which the house sits and they maintain them,” Wallace said.
The society is responsible for the upkeep of the house.
“We put a new roof on a year or so ago,” Wallace said. “That put a dent in the treasury.”
Projects this year include replacing some rotting wood and painting the outside of the house. Wallace said there’s always a crew of volunteers working at the house on the first and third Thursday mornings.
The CHS is also working with the Clearwater Library to place some of their documents at the library so they will be more secure and more available to the public.
“We had a Clearwater History Day at the library last year,” Wallace said. “We showed a film produced in the 1970s about Clearwater history and displayed old yearbooks from Clearwater High School.”
Then it was back to work.
Company would be arriving soon.
Fish fry set
The museum begins Saturday hours (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.) Saturday, Nov. 5. The society’s business meeting with election of officers begins at 11 a.m.; its semi-annual fish fry at the Recreation complex is from about 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Cost is $3 for children and $7 for adults.