The Baker House: Pasco’s Hidden Historic Gem
Situated behind Centennial Park Library, the Baker House is one of only ten historic sites in Pasco County listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Today, Pasco County’s over-developed west coast is nearly void of historic structures and homes that pre-date the 20th century.
But, through the fortunate graces of historic preservation, residents do have one or two fine examples of typical mid- to late-19th century “cracker-style” construction.
And, tucked away behind Centennial Park Library at 5740 Moog Road in Elfers, is one such example.
Here, you will find one of Pasco’s hidden historic gems, called the Baker House.
Built sometime between 1876 and 1882 by Samuel Baker, the Baker House is only one of ten historic sites in Pasco County that has the prestigious designation of being listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
This historic home has numerous simple but distinct features typical of any Florida “cracker-style” home - features such as a central “dog-trot” hall and detached kitchen.
But, more unique to the home’s construction are the combinations of "country carpentry" and the crafted skills of a shipwright.
To better understand the marriage of these two building styles is to understand the home’s namesake owner, Samuel Baker.
With Bahamian lineage and having been raised in Key West, by age 17 Samuel found employment on the open seas as a mariner or seaman. In this position he likely learned the techniques and trade skills of a shipwright, which he latter incorporated into the construction of his home.
The capacity of Samuel’s early employment as a mariner, seaman, and sailor is unclear.
However, we know through his reported titles, at minimum, he was among the crew of a sailing or steam vessel, and, in his position aided in the navigation of the vessel or in the preservation in the course of its official occupation.
Eventually, Samuel worked his way through the ranks to the achieved position of captain.
And, by 1876, local tax records reveal he had arrived to our area to lay down his roots in a new community.
On May 19, 1880, he received title to 40 acres, purchased from the State of Florida for $40 or $1.00 per acre. This, the 40 acres on which the Baker House resides.
By 1882, Samuel had cleared and improved a 10 acre plot, 8 ½ acres of which were converted into sustainable crops for his family, mainly consisting of corn and sweet potatoes. The remaining 1 ½ cleared acres became pasture for his livestock.
Today, nearly every acre of the Baker’s original 40 is covered with modern structures and paved with neighborhood streets, but the Baker House was saved as part of an extensive preservation project that began in 1989 and concluded in 1993.
But, the history of the Baker House and its surrounding lands is much more then the history of a building, it also about the Baker family’s contributions to Pasco County and the local community.
In the mid 1880s, the northeastern corner of the Baker 40 became the location where neighborhood children gathered to attend school in a small frame building known as the Baillie School - a predecessor of the Elfers School.
The exact date the school moved to the Baker’s property is unknown. However, on April 5, 1888, Samuel was joined by his wife, Elizabeth, in graciously deeding the already occupied one acre school site to the school board.
And, the Bakers just didn’t give the land for the school-- they were also involved in its general operations. Between 1887 and 1897 Samuel Baker also represented his community as a school trustee.
Today, the former one acre school site is situated near the southwest corner of Madison Street and Moog Road.
School board records also seem to indicate the Baillie School remained at this location until the late 1890s to early 1900s.
In September 1983, Pasco County purchased the land where the Baker House sits and named the site Centennial Park. In 1989 the Baker House Restoration Project was organized.
With participation from Baker family descendents and under the direction of restoration architect John Parks, the house was fully restored.
On Feb. 13, 1993, the Baker House was officially dedicated and thereafter efforts were made to open it to the public as a museum.
On Feb. 14, 1997, four years after the completion of the restoration project, the historic Baker House was officially added to the National Registry of Historic Places.
Today, through the efforts of the Elfers Centennial Garden Club, the Baker House is open to the public the third Saturday of the month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. during the months of October through May. Arrangements for group tours can be made.