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Edwinola home featured on Garden Club's ornament

Each year the Dade City Garden Club has an ornament sale. The holiday art features a historic site in the city.

By MICHELLE JONES, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 20, 2001

Each year the Dade City Garden Club has an ornament sale. The holiday art features a historic site in the city.

DADE CITY -- For the past eight years members of the Dade City Garden Club have sold Christmas ornaments of historic places in their community. This year the ornament is of the Edwinola, a retirement home a block north of Meridian Avenue and a block west of the heart of downtown Dade City.

The ornament is in three colors -- gold, green and white -- and sells for $14.

The Edwinola was constructed in 1912 of poured concrete, block and frame and featured Doric columns and a mansard roof. The style is neoclassical and was first occupied by the Dade City Hotel, which burned in 1907. Edwin and Lola Gasque completed the building, which is named after a combination of their names.

Tea dances were held on the large porch with an orchestra on one end and a pool table on the other. For many years it was a gathering place for townspeople. After World War II the hotel fell on hard times and ceased operations around 1950.

The Gasque family used the hotel as a residence through the 1950s and 1960s and from 1969 to 1971 it was the site of the East Coast University. In 1975 Marlene and Robert Sumner purchased and renovated the building and operated it as the Edwinola Restaurant. After a few years patronage slowed and it closed. It remained vacant until the mid 1980s when an eight-story annex was added for use as a retirement home. It continues to operate in that capacity today.

Funds raised through the sale of the ornament are used to maintain the historic garden center and to send children to camp.

"Environmental seminars, flower shows and educational meetings are also financed through the sale," said Pat Carver, a member of the garden club.

Ornaments may be purchased at the Dade City Chamber of Commerce office or by calling Sheryl Little at (352) 521-0835. Some of the older ornaments may be available.

The club also has brass frames available to purchase so the ornaments can be displayed all year long.

The first ornament the club sold depicts the Pasco County Courthouse. It is square and only two dimensional. The second ornament is of the Dade City Grammar School, now named Cox Elementary after Rodney Cox, who was principal there in the 1960s. It has red brick on gold.

"I taught there in 1960," said Carver.

Dade City Garden Center, which was originally St. Rita Catholic Church, is the third ornament, and the fourth is designed after the Presbyterian Church on Church Avenue. It was constructed in 1894 and is the oldest church in Dade City.

The fifth ornament is a creation of the 1909 renovated historic courthouse.

"It was the grandest creation of them all," Carver said.

In 1999 the ornament was designed after the 1926 Dade City Woman's Club, and last year the ornament was the Pioneer Florida Museum.

"It was designed after the locomotive train and it was done in black," said Carver.

A brief history of each historical site comes in the box with the ornament.

-- Michelle Jones covers central Pasco community news. She can be reached at (813) 909-4612. Her e-mail address is

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