Mostly Manatee residents interested in buying 117-year-old "Beth Salem" house

'Beth Salem' house will be demolished unless buyer is found and moves it

skennedy@bradenton.comOctober 15, 2013 

The "Beth Salem" house on State Road 70 in better days. It is one of Manatee County's oldest houses. The house has been listed on the National Registry of Historic Places since 1995. PROVIDED PHOTO

MANATEE -- About 30 potential buyers have expressed interest in the 117-year-old "Beth Salem" house, one of the oldest houses in Manatee County.

"We are feverishly working to nail down numbers to respond back to everybody with house costs and moving costs and property-next-door costs," said Andy Reasoner, of Whitfield.

He is hoping to save the gracious old house by moving it, perhaps as close as next door.

He is selling the land underneath it for a RaceTrac gas station-convenience store, he has said. The house, located next to the Sam's Club on State Road 70, could be demolished unless a buyer can be found who would be willing to move it from its original site at 3004 53rd Ave. E., Reasoner has said.

Reasoner's relatives own a lot next door, where the house might eventually end up, Reasoner said.

Almost all of those who responded to a sales announcement last summer were locals, with the exception of one person from Orlando and one from St. Petersburg, said Reasoner.

"Virtually everyone has implied a more commercial business-type use," he added. "One person was interested in it for a 'B-and-B'-type restaurant," he said.

The house has been listed on the National Registry of Historic Places since 1995.

For decades, the clapboard beauty sheltered Reasoner family members, and also served as the site of their business, Royal Palm Nurseries, the oldest nursery in Florida.

Reasoner's great-aunt, Julia Reasoner Hastings, lived in the house until her death in 1972.

The house has been restored and used recently as the nursery's offices. Construction on the $4,000 structure began in December 1895, according to an article published in the "Manatee River Journal," provided by Cindy Russell, historic records librarian for the Manatee County Clerk and Comptroller R.B. "Chips" Shore.

The home's first inhabitants were the nurseryman Egbert Reasoner and his wife, Sarah, according to "The Plant Pioneers," a book written by Norman J. Pinardi.

The nursery itself became world-famous, as it was responsible for the introduction of hundreds of species of plants to Florida. Among the achievements of Egbert and his brother, 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.

"There has been a lot of interest expressed in buying the house and moving it, and I'm very encouraged by that," said Reasoner.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.

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