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New life breathed into historic home

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Published:   |   Updated: July 15, 2013 at 08:58 AM

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BROOKSVILLE - Although no events were planned Thursday afternoon at 200 S. Saxon Ave., a constant stream of future brides and curious Brooksvilians walked the historic property.

Unannounced visitors are not unusual, said Dorthea Stephens, who bought the home in December 2011 with her husband, Gregory.

"The price was right, but the house was a mess," said Stephens. The new owner got to work right away, starting to clear out trash containers full of debris before the official closing with permission of the previous owners.

The house was built between the late 1860s and early 1870s by Frank Saxon for his second wife, Talula Hope, the daughter of a Brooksville pioneer. Saxon himself served as a legislator and clerk of the circuit court.

The house sat empty for the past 40 years or so, falling into disrepair, with boards replacing window glass and vines growing up the Queen Anne Revival architecture.

A few more years, and the house might have "fallen over," Stephens suspects.

On July 1, Brooksville City Council awarded the Stephens with the Margaret R. Ghiotto Improvement Award for a commercial Brooksville building. Mayor Lara Bradburn said during the meeting that Ghiotto, her mentor, had purchased the house with hopes of renovating it before her death in 2006.

The property is now a venue for weddings and other events. Stephens, a former postal worker, said she has held about 15 weddings so far. The Stephens have built a reception hall behind the Victorian building, and one room of the house has been renovated so far.

Once complete, the main house will likely house an antique kitchen and dressing room for brides. Stephens said she is contemplating selling antiques, or setting up a tea room, as well.

"I've always liked decorating," Stephens said, explaining she entered the wedding business after purchasing the Saxon home.

Stephens said many members of the community have volunteered, for pay or no pay, to help transform the historic building, as well as the surrounding gardens.

"The house never looked like this," said Frasier Mountain, who has lived in Brooksville for 90 years "They've made it beautiful."

Stephens said Mountain is a great resource for any question on the property's history. After buying the property, Stephens noticed cement with handprints on the property. Mountain suspects the prints date back to around 1905 or 1910, and that the cement is the base of a 30-foot-tall silo that once stood there.

All he has to prove it, though, is a photograph taken of a train wreck in the 1950s.

"You can see the shadow of a silo in the photograph," Mountain said.

More information about the Saxon Manor is available at http://www.saxon events.com or by calling (813) 909-3414.

A bridal show is scheduled for Sept. 22., from 12 to 5 p.m.

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