This is a nice time of year to tour old and historical houses. My beau and I like to visit such places, and looking back on my journals, it seems that many of these places we visited were around the Holidays.
Last Saturday night, we did it again.
After a little early supper, and the evening clear with the temperature around 65*F, we drove down the two-lane road apiece (I’m feeling so pastoral as I write this). We passed ancient oaks heavily laden with brown Spanish moss, glimpsed a few spindly palms, and a flock of black birds scattered as we navigated a curve. Several miles later, The Baker House appeared in the twilight:
As we walk up to the house, watch your step; the sandy path and grass are a little uneven. Here’s a little background in the meantime—
David Hume Baker was born in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky on October 7, 1841. He served in the Civil War in the 12th Kentucky Calvary (Union). He served as a State Senator in Kentucky. His wife was Mary Hannah Matthis.
Baker and his family moved to Sumter County, Florida, where he built this two-story house in the late 1880s on 1,200 acres, grew oranges, and served as a Florida State Senator. David H. and Mary Baker are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
The house still has its original wood floors, original window sashes, original decorative door hinges, original plaster walls in the library and parlor, and a veranda and balcony that wrap around the building:
The kitchen is in a separate building next to the main house. In those days, kitchens were typically built as a separate unit in case of fires, which threatened the main houses. Here, the kitchen has a dining room, three pantries, a bath, and two upstairs bedrooms. The family lived in this building until the main house was completed, and at one time there was a covered walkway between the two buildings. Here we see the kitchen on the left in this photograph:
As we walk into the house, the foyer welcomes us:
The Baker House has on its main floor, the foyer, a parlor, living room, and library. Folding glass doors separate the rooms:
The single fireplace in the living room is the only source of heat, even to this day:
To help move heat to the other rooms, small ducts carried the heat throughout the house. In the months when the fireplace isn’t used, these ducts are covered with the original decorative caps:
Walking upstairs on narrow risers and holding onto a thick, hand carved railing, we saw the stained glass window on the landing. Although most of the glass is original, some needed to be replaced over the years. The stained glass colors represent the four seasons: green for spring, amber for summer, red for autumn, and violet for winter. The clear and blue glass are the replacement glass, since some of the original colors were no longer available at restoration:
Once upstairs, we found four bedrooms, and a bath that was added in 1926, and updated in the 1950s with paneling. As part of the renovation, the bath will be restored to its original 1920s style.
There is an open attic, not available for tours. (All the more I want to see it!) At one time there was a ladder in the attic that took you up to the cupola, which at some point was removed.
The windows were installed with the idea of cross breezes and air movement to help keep the house cool. As the house is being restored, workers and volunteers are discovering some things that were hidden for years, such as the red painted window sashes. What you see now is the original red; red paint was inexpensive, and now I think it’s quite fashionable:
Some of the articles on display are original to the house, some are donations from kind-hearted people who want to help preserve history. This brown and black dress was donated by a lady who wanted it kept and preserved, and not tossed in the Goodwill box because none of her relatives wanted it. Despite its age, this dress is in pristine condition:
A little girl’s white ruffled dress is displayed on a bedroom door:
A wedding dress hangs in a bedroom closet:I didn’t see any men’s period clothing on display.
The master bedroom has a huge closet. See how the plaster needs a lot of work:
We were able to see a closet in one of the other bedrooms. That closet was about five feet wide and maybe 18 inches deep. There were only hooks on the back wall. I forgot to take a photograph.
There is a lot of plaster work still to be done:
We were lucky to meet a couple of Baker descendants that night: Mrs. Carolyn Baker Moore, a great-granddaughter of David H. Baker, and her daughter, Barbara. Carolyn was born upstairs in one of the bedrooms:
We spoke at length with Barbara and learned a few family stories about her grandmother and her cane – it was how she keep the kids in line. Those types of stories, we believe, are plentiful and worth writing down to keep the soul and historical feel with the house.
Six generations of the Baker family lived in this house. In 2012, the family donated the house and land to the Wildwood Area Historical Association, which is working on the restoration of the house.
During the year, there are events you can attend and participate in. Money is needed to help restore the house and preserve it.
Currently, there are tours during this 2017 Christmas Holiday season:
6106 Co Rd 44A
Wildwood, FL 34785
December 3 — 6:00 p.m.
December 9, 10, 16, & 17 — 10:00 a.m.
December 19 — 6:00 p.m.
December 29 — 6:00 p.m.
December 30 — 10:00 a.m.
Tickets are $10.00 per person, no reservations are needed, and proceeds benefit The Baker House’s restoration. They also could use some volunteer help.
More information can be found at: The Baker House Project
There is so much more to this story, and needs to be written. I’m thinking—
©Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.