Two new efforts spring up to save Manatee's historic 'Beth Salem' house

skennedy@bradenton.comJune 24, 2014 

EAST MANATEE -- Two separate efforts have sprung up to save the historic "Beth Salem" house, whose owners fear demolition will be their only option if a buyer cannot be found.

The 118-year-old house has not yet been slated for immediate demolition, but one of the owners, Ward Reasoner, said this month he would reluctantly seek it after the Manatee County Commission approved a construction plan for a RaceTrac gas station/convenience store on the site.

However, two people have made new attempts to save the house at 3004 53rd Ave. E., one by contacting an editor for This Old House magazine, which is affiliated with a PBS television show of the same name, and the other via a fundraising website.

"I didn't want them to destroy this gorgeous old home," said Julie Studer, a medical technician at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, who said she had forwarded information about the house to Paul Hope, an associate editor at the magazine.

Hope responded by asking for more pictures of the house, and information on its demolition date, Studer said.

"It sounds like they might want to try to save it," Studer said Tuesday.

A publicist for the maga

zine and program, Lori Lefevre Wells, confirmed Tuesday that Hope had received information about the house.

Another effort to save the home came from Tom Valois, who sent an email to the Bradenton Herald saying that after reading the most recent of its articles about the Beth Salem home, he had started a campaign at fundly.com, "as a last ditch effort to try to raise the funds to save the house."

"I realize this is a long shot, but I would hate for our community to lose another piece of history," he wrote.

The house is featured at the website at https://fundly.com/1896-beth-salem-home-preservation#guide-start.

As of Tuesday no money had been raised; the site showed two supporters and a goal of $1,650.

Efforts to reach Valois were unsuccessful Tuesday.

The graceful old Beth Salem house sheltered Reasoner relatives for decades and was the site of its business as well, which remains the oldest nursery business in Florida.

Since 1995, the house, next to the Sam's Club on State Road 70, has been listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

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

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