Fire claims Dade City landmark

Published May 24, 2007

A house with a dramatic history met a dramatic end Wednesday.

The 5, 200-square-foot Dade City home, built by a powerful politician in 1889 and later the center of Republican politics in Pasco County, burned to the ground.

Firefighters were called to the fire about 4 p.m. By 6 p.m., all that was left was two chimney stacks and smoldering ruin. No cause had yet been determined.

The Stanberry House, a two-story, colonial-style home on a 48-acre ranch along 14th Street, was built by Lt. Gov. Milton H. Mabry, father of Capt. Dale Mabry. It later become the renowned home of Lowell B. Stanberry, who died in September.

Stanberry sold the five-bedroom, three-bath home and the surrounding ranch in 2003, broken up into five separate parcels.

The names of the current owners of the home were unclear late Wednesday.

"I feel like crying, " said Nell Bass, who has lived next door to the home for nearly 40 years. She and her husband, Pat, were friends with the Stanberrys. Lowell's wife, Evelyn, had a stroke and was ill for many years. Lowell took care of her. Bass said Evelyn was an antique collector and had gorgeous things in their home. Lowell had archives of history on the home.

"It was a beautiful old home, " Bass said Wednesday night. "It was just an old, Southern-style home with a big fireplace. Now the only thing left is the chimney."

Bass paused for a moment.

"I don't even have a picture of it, " she said. "Isn't that awful?"

For years, the home on 14th Street was where the GOP power broker parlayed an outgoing personality and coffee-and-sandwich sessions into another name: Mr. Republican.

"He was a Republican before it was cool to be Republican, " said Pasco Property Appraiser Mike Wells when Lowell Stanberry died.

Born in Fletcher, Ky., the former highway patrol officer moved to Dade City in 1971, becoming a gas station owner and fuel oil deliverer.

At his store, he held court and built a powerful network of political influence, which by 1994 included Gov. Jeb Bush. Stanberry hosted Dade City events for Bush in 1994 and 2000.

"You had to show Lowell you were someone who watches how they spend taxpayer money, " said state Sen. Mike Fasano. "To get Lowell Stanberry's endorsement meant a lot."