The former City Hall building at Seminole City Park will be renovated into multi-use community space. It will include a community banquet room and space for a Seminole Historical Society Museum.
SEMINOLE – For the Seminole Historical Society, the looming renovation of the former City Hall building into multi-use community space is a double-edged sword.
On one hand, the group is elated. It will finally have a permanent home, space where it can not only hold its meetings and presentations that are open to the public, but also display its memorabilia regaling Seminole’s rich history.
Currently, all of the pieces that would be included in its museum are stored throughout the community, at various members’ homes, and at the Holland G. Magnum Recreation Complex, from which it currently operates.
“Room 210B,” said Sandy Holloway, the group’s president. “That’s where we keep everything. Before that we just met in the library. So we’re very excited about the City Hall project.”
But on the other hand, the renovations make them realize exactly how much help they need – both financially and in terms of physical labor.
The 15,000-square-foot building at Seminole City Park, 7464 Ridge Road has long been vacant and used primarily as city storage space, said City Manager Frank Edmunds. The $2.25 million project, funded mostly by Penny for Pinellas money, will include 3,600 square feet for the historical society, he said. 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 is included on a list of the city’s seven-year goals, which was approved by the City Council at its June 11 meeting. As plans for the building are finalized, Edmunds said construction should probably begin sometime in October.
This means the Historical Society needs to get organized now, Holloway said.
“It’s going to take a lot of major fundraisers,” Holloway said.
“Volunteers and donations, that’s the bottom line,”
Jimmy Vines, the group’s historian, added. “We need young people, new blood.”
Right now, the Rec Center room serves as an underused, mini museum, with old city records and ledgers, photographs from the family of Jesse Johnson and the Friends of the Library, and other items collected from residents haphazardly on display and stored underneath tables. But the room isn’t readily available to the public, only open every so often when the group meets or when a guest lecturer is brought in to speak.
“We’re just accumulating it all with nowhere to go,” Vines said.
Holloway said that she and the group are grateful for everything the city has done for them.
“The city has been so helpful and so nice,” she said, noting that Edmunds worked hard to find them a room in the Rec Center. “But we need more space.”
And while the future space at the former City Hall will come rent-free to the group, finances are still a concern. The Historical Society will be responsible for paying for its electricity and upkeep of the room. Plus, the glass cases necessary for proper displays are expensive.
“They cost about $2,500 apiece, new,” Vines said.
To afford the move, the Historical Society is calling on the kindness of donors. The group has a three-tiered system for donors: $500 earns a “pioneer” status; $5,000 a “settler” status; and $10,000 an “historian” status. There also will be several fundraisers planned for this fall, Holloway said.
Right now, the group relies primarily on membership fees, which are nominal at $10 a year per family and just $100 to become a lifetime member, Holloway added.
As the group moves forward with the museum, Nancy Barlow, who handles the Historical Society’s publicity, said she also hopes to see more residents donate historic items for display.
“You never know what people might have just lying around their homes,” she said.
In addition to the museum, the group also plans to get involved with other community projects. These include restoring Seminole Elementary School, which turns 100 this year, to its original appearance, and the continued preservation of the historic and rustic log cabin at 54th Avenue and Seminole Boulevard.