MANATEE -- The owners of one of the oldest houses in Manatee County are trying to move the building from its original site and sell it to avoid demolition.
Andy Reasoner, 58, of Whitfield, said he hoped to save the gracious 117-year-old "Beth Salem" house since he is selling the land underneath it for a RaceTrac gas station-convenience store.
Since 1995, the house has been listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. It is at 3004 53rd Ave. E. next to the Sam's Club on State Road 70.
For decades, the house sheltered Reasoner family members, and the property also was the site of their business, the oldest nursery in Florida.
"We are hopeful that we can move the house and find it a permanent home," said Reasoner, president of the Reasoner Family Partnership, which owns the house.
"We have made arrangements to purchase the lot to the east of the site, which is one option for where the house could be moved if a new owner for the house can be found," he said.
The Florida Victorian-style house was the first with indoor plumbing in Southwest Florida, and also was among the first residences with a telephone.
"When the house was first built, its phone number was 7," he said.
Reasoner told the Manatee County Planning Commission he hoped to arrange for its sale so it would not be a financial burden for his children.
Reasoner's children, Lauren, 10, and Tyler, 12, represent the family's sixth generation in Manatee County.
He appeared before the commission in conjunction with proposed rules changes to the county's Historic
He was concerned the changes might adversely affect the sale of the historic house, but county officials said they would not.
The planning commission, which is an advisory body, went on to OK the proposal to amend the county Land Development Code to provide additional powers and duties to the Manatee County Historic Preservation Board. The Manatee County Commission will make the final decision.
Reasoner said Manatee County lags behind Sarasota County in protecting historic buildings and sites, calling its historic preservation efforts "pathetic."
"Manatee County has done nothing since that house has been there to help us preserve it," he told the board. "If the board wants to do something to help preserve historic property in Manatee County, the first thing they need to do is adopt state statutes, which provide for a waiver of ad valorem taxes."
Cathy Slusser, appearing on behalf of the county clerk of the Circuit Court Department of Historical Resources, said the county "is looking at that as well."
Reasoner'sgreat-aunt, Julia Reasoner Hastings, lived in the house until her death in 1972. The house has been restored and used recently by Royal Palm Nurseries as its offices.
The nursery itself became world-famous, as it was responsible for the introduction of hundreds of species of plants to Florida.
Among the achieve-ments of the late nurserymen Egbert and Pliny Reasoner were introduction of the world's first pink grapefruit; they also introduced to Florida the bougainvillea, hibiscus, oleander, avocados, royal palms and mangoes.
Andy Reasoner said should he find a buyer for the home, he will have a site plan drawn up for the property and submit it to Manatee County officials for approval.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.