An exact date for the original construction of the Gardenville Schoolhouse has never been found, but a photograph from 1926 shows it had to have been some time before that.
The recent renovation has brought it into the 21st Century, and the complete restoration project attempted to retain and duplicate what was believed to be the original style of the historic structure as much as was possible with modernization.
“When we took down the aluminum soffit, we saw a bright yellow color that had been the original color used in areas on the outside of the building,” said Dan Myers, project manager. Myers, who is employed by Hillsborough County’s Real Estate and Facility Department, confirmed that the two-and-a-half-year renovation of the old schoolhouse at 6215 Symmes Road in Gibsonton cost $830,000 and was funded by a U.S. Department of Housing Community Block Grant. Hillsborough County’s Affordable Housing Services Department administered the project.
“That was huge,” Myers said. The architects and interior designers were Elements Architects, based in Tampa, and Krueger Construction of Safety Harbor was the contractor.
A new partnership between the Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department and the county’s Department of Aging Services is now in place serving both the schoolhouse and the adjoining recreation center.
Parks and Rec at the Schoolhouse is led by long-time Recreation Supervisor Dave Ramirez, and Nellie Garay is the Aging Services Senior Center Coordinator.
“This way, the buildings are in use both day and in the evening,” Ramirez said.
With no down time and a sharing of budgets, the “time-sharing” really keeps things moving. Parks and Recreation owns the building, but programming is coordinated so the two don’t get in each other’s way, and, in fact, work in tandem.
The newly renovated building recently opened with Aging Services has many uses including providing a gathering place, offering meal services to eligible seniors, and holding health and wellness activities.
Meanwhile Parks and Rec has several things in the works, including arts and cultural programs for children, adults and seniors to be held later in the day, possibly in both the afternoon and evening, Ramirez said.
“One big key to success is intergenerational activities,” said Ramirez. “Like for Christmas, Mr. and Mrs. Claus came from the Seniors’ program and visited with the kids from the rec center. In the future, we plan to do a lot more things together because it serves all the populations in the community.”
Myers said a lot of credit for the community-centered outcome goes to County Commissioer Sandra Murman, a long-time supporter of the Gibsonton area.
“She has really had a hand in this,” he said.
The building’s red-brick exterior now sports a new green tile roof and bright yellow trim. The original plaques listing the County Commissioners responsible for its construction in the 1920s have been restored and outlined in yellow to match the outside trim. One has already been placed by the main door, and another is still in the restoration process.
Inside everything is new and bright as well.
On a quiet Tuesday afternoon, Helen Herron, Bill and Jan Powell, and Carolyn Svenddal were found playing table games in one of the recreation rooms and talking with Garay.
Garay was in the process of planning the February and March calendars of senior events, asking for opinions of those who will participate.
And so the building originally built to teach reading, writing and arithmetic to youngsters — now an historic part of South County’s past — will serve a whole new population of residents of every age for years to come.