OLD TIME CITY ON A HILLBROOKSVILLE, originally known as Melendez and then Benton, is a wonderful city of hills, ranging in elevation from 175 to 274 feet. Coupled with its condensed area (2.77 square miles) and its long history of successful planters, growers, and cattlemen, Brooksville is more a reflection of "the Old South" than other West Coast towns. Brooksville grew from two communities: Fort DeSoto and Pierceville. Its Southern background is reflected in its name, honoring South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks who is best noted for hitting abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner on the head with his cane.
WHERE TO START: Enter Brooksville from the south on US41 (BROAD STREET), reaching downtown from the east.
Just past Lemon Street, you'll notice on (1) FIRST METHODIST CHURCH, 105 West Broad.
CROSS ORANGE, unless you wish to take a short detour north on Orange to the JOHN J. HALE HOUSE (A), a 3-story 1888 frame house owned by a merchant and railroad trustee. Note how the breezeway that once seperated the kitchen is enclosed.
At 31 Broad is the (2) PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH BUILDING, converted in 1947 by Henry Carlton Sr. into new location for his grocery founded in 1910. The next intersection is the center of Brooksville. At 1 Main Street is the (3) FIRST NATIONAL BANK (1910), a two-story brick structure with its original cast iron columns.
In the northeast corner stands the (4) HERNANDO COUNTY COURTHOUSE (1913), a rectangular Classical Revival brick edifice designed by William A. Edwards, complete with Ionic columns.
TURN LEFT (north) ON MAIN STREET (later called Howell). At 115 North Main is (5) R.R. DINGLE DEPARTMENT STORE (1912), one of the early large firms. CROSS JEFFERSON STREET. On your left is (6) BACON'S DRUGS (1926) and on your right the notable (7) HERNANDO STATE BANK (1905), where J. A. Jennings was first President prior to its purchase in 1907 by William McKethan.
At 115 North Main is (8) WEEKS HARDWARE (1913), a two-story brick owned by John Weeks, first President of the First Federal Bank. Across the street is the (9) J. M. ROGERS DEPARTMENT STORE (1912), 120 North Main.
CROSS FORT DADE. On the right you can stop and get more local information at the (10) CHAMBER OF COMMERCE (796-2420), 101 Ft. Dade Avenue, or at the nearby FREDERICK EUGENE LYKES JR LIBRARY. At 253 North Main (Howell) is the (11) W. A. FULTON HOUSE (1900), a lovely 2-story double verandah home of the organizer of the Florida Citrus Exchange. Lawyer E. S. MacKenzie was a long owner.
Brooksville's residential streets are lined with interesting buildings, but TURN RIGHT ON OLIVE STREET. At 17 Olive is the (12) ST ANTH CATHOLIC CHURCH (1908). nicely converted into a private dwelling. At 48 Olive is the (13) GOVERNOR WILLIAM SHERMAN JENNINGS HOUSE (1880), originally the Roer House. The three-story frame house has a wonderful octagonal bay tower and is in fine condition.
TURN AROUND AT OLIVE and RETURN TO MAIN STREET, heading south past the Courthouse. At the southeast corner at 2 Broad Street is the (14) J. A. JENNINGS BUILDING (1915), a two-story brick vernacular started by the city's first clerk (1880).
CROSS LIBERTY STREET. At 140 South Main is (15) DOGWOOD STATION (1919), a popular place to shop. At 210 South Main is (16) MONTAINEER ANTIQUES (1925) in a classic Sears & Roebuck catalog house.
TURN RIGHT ON EARLY and drive to BROOKSVILLE/MAGNOLIA. TURN RIGHT to see the fine (17) OWEN WHITEHURST HOUSE (1896), 321 South Brooksville, a two-story double veranda house. TURN AROUND GOING NORTH ON BROOKSVILLE to 133 South Brooksville and the (18) COOGLER HOUSE (1910). Theodore Coogler came from South Carolina as an early settler. Colonel F. B. Coogler was the town's first treasurer (1880).
OWEN WHITEHOURST HOUSE (1896), Brooksville
TURN RIGHT ON LIBERTY. At Liberty and Saxon Avenue is the famous: (19) ROGER'S CHRISTMAS HOUSE, 103 Saxon Avenue. Mary Roger's Christmas gift shop has grown into an amazing complex of houses filled with decorations, displays, and attractions.
WHERE ELSE TO GO IN BROOKSVILLE:
VISIT (20) the HERITAGE MUSEUM, 600 West Jefferson, located in the 1850 Stringer House, a Queen Anne masterpiece with a four-story tower. F. L. Stringer was a State Senator and judge. There's exhibits and historic artifacts.
(21) CHINSEGUT HILL, located five miles north off US41 by Lake Lindsey. Colonel Byrd Pearson of Columbia, South Carolina, founded the plantation. His daughter wed Governor Francis P. Fleming. Colonel Raymond Robins, social economist and Progressive Party leader, owned the estate for years and donated 2,000 acres to the Department of Agriculture. The University of South Florida uses the mansion for private retreats, but the exterior of the house is worth the trip.
OTHER SOURCES OF INFORMATION ON BROOKSVILLE
Besides the CITY LINKS in Yahoo and Lycos, there are several other sources you might try:
MOTON SCHOOL'S OUR TOWN (Brooksville) GUIDE
A wonderful reference on local topics, including the Brooksville Raid, Roger's Christmas House, and the Stringer Museum.