The koi pond at “Holloway Haven.” Sandy Holloway, president of the Seminole Historical Society, will offer garden tours on her property, 11500 74th Ave., May 18, to benefit the organization’s planned museum. Tickets are $10 each.
SEMINOLE – Tucked away in the middle of Seminole is a slice of old Florida unlike you’ll find in any other part of the county.
And the Seminole Historical Society, to raise money for its planned museum in the former City Hall building at Seminole City Park, invites the public to enjoy 2 acres of beautiful gardens and landscaping at “Holloway Haven,” 11500 74th Ave., Sunday, May 18, noon to 4 p.m. Tickets are $10.
A part of the historic Oakhurst neighborhood, and enveloped by lush, green canopies, The property has been owned by Sandy Holloway, president of the Historical Society, for nearly 50 years.
“I like sharing this piece of Florida, something that people don’t have an opportunity to see,” she said. “We just feel like we’re caretakers of the land.”
Oakhurst was founded in the 1870s, when brothers Albert and Stuart Meares bought the land that is now City Park for $1.25 an acre. They each built a home on the land, and as their children grew up, they’d write to their family in other parts of the world about how beautiful the area was.
“They told Aunt Bell what a beautiful place this was,” said Jimmy Vines, historian for the Historical Society. “It was like this 100 years ago. Beautiful oak trees, Spanish moss blowing in the breeze, just beautiful. She said, why don’t you call it Oakhurst. So they did.”
The home built by Albert’s son, Maurice, where the City Park band shell now stands, was an iconic structure in town, until the city bought the property in the 1970s and tore down the then-decrepit home to build a park.
“For all the kids that grew up around here, that was the haunted house,” Holloway said.
By the first quarter of the 1900s, Colonel Martin Rhodes had developed homes along 74th Avenue down to 113th Street, right across from the Meares’ property.
“He built a house for every one of his friends from Oak Park, Illinois,” Holloway said. “They all moved here and it was their little retirement village.”
Holloway Haven can be found on this land. Originally, she bought one of the homes meant for Rhodes’ friends, but about 18 years ago had the opportunity to purchase his original home as well.
“I just thought, we can’t not do this, because it all blends in together so well,” Holloway said.
Holloway has held several garden tours of her property before, but not in several years. In the past, they were connected with a rare plant sale also held on her front lawn.
“It was like a mad house. So we knew they can work,” she said. “It was such a success, I thought why not do this now specifically for the Seminole Historical Society.”
The city is gifting the Historical Society space after its conversion of the long-vacant, former City Hall building, a 15,000-foot structure, at Seminole City Park, 7464 Ridge Road, into a multi-use facility. The $2.25 million project, funded mostly by Penny for Pinellas money, will include 3,600 square feet for the historical society. It also will include a 6,600-square-foot community room, which will be available for rental and be able to seat 250, with the balance of the building’s space going to community policing and storage.
The project will hopefully be completed by the end of the year, Holloway said, meaning the Historical Society would likely move in by spring of 2015.
In addition to financial donations, the Historical Society is also looking for historical items and photos, display cabinetry and volunteers to staff the museum once it opens.
All funds from the May 18 garden tour will benefit the new museum.
The band Gypsy Wind will perform with a special appearance by the Hammerhead Dulcimer Society of Tampa Bay. Local historians and authors Mac Perry, Jimmy Vines and Jim Schnur will have historical displays.
Tickets are available at Seminole Garden Florist, 13030 Park Blvd.; Seminole City Hall, 9199 113th St.; and Lake Seminole Square, 8333 Seminole Blvd. They also can be purchased the day of the event.