HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
The Historic Court House (1909)
This page was last revised on July 29, 2017.
County government met in temporary facilities before Dade City was selected as the permanent county seat. County commission records in 1889 indicate that rent for the building being used at that time as a court house would be $200 per year, or $18 per month if used for less than a year.
The wooden court house constructed in 1891 is said to have been moved one block east after it was replaced with the 1909 court house. The wooden court house burned in 1922 or 1907-08, according to later accounts. (The Dade City Banner apparently does not mention a fire in 1922.)
A larger picture of the 1891 court house is here.
On April 17, 1909, the Tampa Morning Tribune reported that at their last meeting the county commissioners “reconsidered the court house question and agreed to erect a court house that will be a credit to any county. It will be of stone and brick entirely fireproof material. Plans by C. C. Horsford [actually Edward Columbus Hosford--jm] were agreed upon and contract will be let May 10. Building is to cost $35,000.”
County Commission minutes of May 10, 1909, state that the contract for the new courthouse had been let to Mutual Construction Company of Louisville, Ky. at a cost of $34,860.
On Sept. 2, 1909, the Tampa Morning Tribune reported, “Work on the new courthouse moves along smoothly. If the weather continues favorable, Contractor Hazard expects to complete the building by the middle of November.”
Couty Commission minutes indicate that Mr. A. J. Burnside accepted the courthouse on July 5, 1910, and made the first payment of $6,360.
On Oct. 7, 1912, bids were let to Mr. L. M. Eck for sidewalks around the courthouse, the cost to be 13 1/4 cents per square foot.
In 1924 a bandstand was built near the court house. It is now a war memorial. The memorial marker has the following inscription:
The 14 granite panels around the base of the bandstand record and honor the names of the 1,860 military veterans with a 'home of record' of Pasco County, Florida that served during World War II. They crossed both great oceans to land on continents to free the world from tyranny and oppression without knowing when or if they would return. We will always owe them a debt that we can never fully repay. Dedicated on Flag Day, June 14, 1948 and re-dedicated on July 14, 2014.
The names appearing on panels 11 and 12 list the African American military Veterans from Pasco County who served in segregated units during World War II. Because they served with distinction and pride despite the racial discrimination of the segregated service, those Veterans, their descendants and the community have elected to continue to post the names separately on those panels to reflect the historical significance of those times.
More information on the selection of Dade City as the county seat and the temporary and first permanent court house is in the Hendley history.
Video clips of the 1998 dedication of the restored 1909 court house are on the video clips page.
Historic Courthouse’s Roots Untangled With Discovery
The following article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on July 19, 2000.
By CAROL JEFFARES HEDMAN
The neoclassical dome and its clock have towered over downtown for more than 90 years, proudly proclaiming to all this is the county seat.
The 1909 courthouse is so symbolic of this quintessential Southern town that its image is regularly used in logos.
And it’s so memorable that last year, when Gregory Herrmann moved to Texas, he noted the courthouse there was like that of his childhood home in east Pasco.
But the courthouse in Mason, Texas, was designed by E. C. Hosford. Artemus Roberts had always received credit for designing Pasco’s old courthouse.
Perplexed, Herrmann sent a photo and the information to his brother, Eddie, in Dade City. Eddie, founder of the Pasco County Historical Society and appointed member of the Pasco County Historical Preservation Committee, helped compile the book Historic Places of Pasco County for the committee in 1992.
That book states what had been accepted for years - that Roberts designed the old Pasco County Courthouse.
Eddie Herrmann was most interested in the information from his brother, which also jarred something in his own memory. Somewhere in his research years ago, Eddie had come across the name Hosford. Digging back into county commission records, Eddie found the resolution passed in 1909 to build a new courthouse for no more than $35,000.
With a bid of $34,860, the contract was awarded that May to Mutual Construction of Louisville, Ky.
“They [the builders] will use plans furnished by E. C. Hosford Co., architects from Atlanta and Eastman, Georgia. A. Roberts will be superintendent of construction,” the records state.
Hosford was paid $871.50 for the plans and specifications. Hosford was also the architect for several other courthouses in Florida counties, including Hendry and Lafayette, Eddie Herrmann said.
Apparently, Hosford had a working relationship with Mutual Construction Co. on several jobs and used the same courthouse design.
The misinformation about Roberts probably stems from the fact he was the supervisor of construction and also a prominent architect in the area, designing several other historic structures that still stand in Dade City.
Those include the old Dade City Grammar School, built in 1923 and now called Rodney B. Cox Elementary [actually opened in Jan 1927 –jm], and the Griffin Block, a section of Meridian Avenue buildings constructed in 1905.
The 1909 courthouse was the third to serve as the headquarters for Pasco County government. The first courthouse was built after Dade City was named temporary county seat when Pasco was formed in 1887.
Henry Coleman and his business partner, W. A. Ferguson, built that courthouse near Seventh Street and Meridian Avenue and gave the building to the county rent-free for two years.
After Dade City was named the permanent county seat in an 1889 election, commissioners contracted to build a frame courthouse for $7,000 on a block near the site where the old red brick courthouse still stands.
The 1909 courthouse served as the center of county government for 70 years. With growth in the county came several additions to the east and west sides of the structure, destroying its original columned porticoes.
In 1979, a modern courthouse was built nearby, and for nearly 20 years the old courthouse stood deteriorating while its fate was being determined.
Spearheaded by veteran County Commissioner Sylvia Young, a $2.3 million, four-year restoration was completed last year.
The first phase involved removing the five additions that were added in the 1940s to return the courthouse to its original design. Taxpayers picked up the tab for $1.3 million; state historic preservation grants paid the rest.
Now referred to as “the historic courthouse,” the building is decorated with period pieces selected by Young, who shopped for antiques with a $50,000 furniture budget approved by county commissioners.
Young, a native of Pasco County who has served on the board for 20 years, has her office at the old courthouse, along with a few other government staff. The county commission meeting room is on the second floor, where old- timers still remember court being held.
An old bandstand, built about 1925 at a corner of the courthouse lawn, adds to the down- home flavor of the courthouse square. The bandstand was built after famed bandmaster John Philip Sousa visited Dade City. A citizens group rallied to raise money to erect the brick structure in hopes Sousa would return. [The bandstand was built in 1924. The Banner seems not to mention a visit by Sousa. -jm]
He never did. But the bandstand remained as a podium for musicians and speech makers.
The bandstand is also a memorial to Pasco County veterans. It contains the names of those who served in World War II, including 39 who died.
As was customary in the days of segregation, a separate list was made for black and white veterans. The world “colored” was painted over at the order of the clerk of the circuit court in 1968.