Standing atop Chinsegut Hill, one’s mind wanders to the time of the Civil War plantation. What was life like at this 1850s-era home for its inhabitants? How, in years afterward, did they go about their daily existence? Such questions are part of the interpretive history Hernando County and local community groups will soon strive to answer for visitors.
Thanks to a newly minted partnership between the Tampa Bay History Center and Hernando County, the Chinsegut Hill Property near Brooksville will soon re-open to welcome visitors once again. One of the Sunshine State’s few pre-Civil War plantation sites still in existence, the 114 acres feature the historic house atop the second-highest point in Florida.
There’s more than meets the eye at Chinsegut, and that’s an understatement: For thousands of years, Floridians have gathered there. During the Roaring Twenties and the Depression-laden Thirties, the home became somewhat of a ‘who’s who mecca,’ hosting high-profile visitors like Thomas Edison and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.
“Our mission is to tell the story of historic Hillsborough County,” says Tampa Bay History Center Director of Marketing and Communications Manny Leto. “Chinsegut Hill is a part of that.”
Historic Hillsborough was much, much larger than modern-day Hillsborough County. Through the mid-19th century, some 24 counties were incorporated in some manner as part of the area. Basically, the Historic Hillsborough encompassed most of Florida's southern Gulf Coast. Today’s Hernando County looks different from Spring Hill to Brooksville, yes -- and it’s fascinating to see how the area has evolved. Through it all, Chinsegut Hill residents weathered pioneer settlements, slavery, and more.
Don’t mark your calendar for a visit just yet. The partnership will be comprised of two phases: Phase One will involve an inventory of the house and its contents; a public re-opening aimed at late Spring of 2020 will comprise Phase Two. The Tampa Bay History Center plans to train a docent group to lead visitors through the grounds and the house itself. Commemorative markers are also in the works. The property is situated about an hour's drive north of Tampa.
“Our mission is an enhanced appreciation of Florida’s history, and this partnership works to further that,” Leto says. “There are a lot of stories we can tell.”
For more information, visit these websites: Tampa Bay History Center and Chinsegut Hill.