MANATEE -- The 118-year-old historic Beth Salem house will meet the wrecking ball after RaceTrac purchased the property for $1.95 million.
RaceTrac and the Reasoner family, through the Reasoner Family Partnership, closed on a deal Friday, according to records filed with the Manatee County Clerk.
The house at 3004 53rd Ave. E, is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and the Reasoner family has been trying to find someone to take the home to avoid demolition as RaceTrac earned approval for a new gas station and convenience store this year.
However, after numerous inquiries and phone calls from interested parties, the family never found a taker, said Ward Reasoner, 57.
"Family members are going to move items that are close to the family and get certain things in the house," he said. "After that, I'm sure it'll be demolished."
RaceTrac spokeswoman Jessica Rice said construction of the 6,000-square-foot store is expected to begin in the first half of 2015.
"Plans for the existing structure on the property remain to be determined," Rice said.
The new store, part of a prototype for the Atlanta-based company, will feature a new yogurt bar, a larger coffee bar, free WiFi and outdoor seating, she said.
Reasoner recognized the sentimental value of the home to his family and the community, but nobody made an offer over the past year to relocate the house because of the cost and logistics involved.
The land along with the adjacent Sam's Club was the original site of Reasoner's Royal Palm Nurseries, which has since moved to Parrish. The business is Florida's oldest continually operated nursery.
"We've tried extensively to save the house. It's the family's wish that the house live on," Reasoner said. "We have spent the last seven years spending hundreds of thousands of dollars fixing it up and saving the house."
Because of those extensive repairs, Reasoner described the house as a "money pit."
He said the family will not use proceeds from the sale of the property to RaceTrac to move the house because of the money the family had already put into the house over the years.
"Why wouldn't they step forward and put their money out and fix the home?" Reasoner said. "We've been doing it over a hundred years as a family where it's costing us a tremendous amount of money. It's been a money pit. How many people would put money in a business or structure where they continually lost money?"
The Florida Victorian-style house was a first of many in Florida -- including containing the first indoor plumbing for Southwest Florida and one of the first homes with a telephone, according to the family.
Reasoner said he hoped this experience would motivate Manatee County to "wake up" and pass a property tax relief ordinance similar to other counties that allows restored historic homes to keep the property tax bill flat for a decade.
Manatee County government will not be able to provide a last-ditch effort to save the house.
"No one likes to see a local landmark slip away, but our Manatee County government is still coping with the realities of the economic recession," said Nicholas Azzara, information outreach manager for Manatee County. "Property tax revenues have not returned to 2007-08 levels, and the county is still in a position of deficit spending. Next year, the county will rely on $13.4 million in reserves to fully fund services to the community."
To the Reasoners, not saving the house is simply a disappointment.
"It's a shame, but nobody knows it more than our family," Reasoner said.