Historic Plumb House Reunion
Photos/Text by Donna Malloy
Plumb Reunion. Maurice Plumb’s father Lester grew up in what is now the Plumb House museum in Clearwater. In those days, Maurice did not have to duck for the second floor threshold.
“That’s where they put the Christmas tree every year” Maurice Plumb related as he pointed to the corner of the downstairs parlor. Although only a young boy at the time, Maurice recalls visiting Grandparents Ralph Reynolds and Florence Plumb at their two story home on more than one occasion.
“The family would get together for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter; about 25 of us. But we haven’t had a large family gathering in this home since the late 1950’s”
The Plumb House was originally located on the northwest corner of Lakeview and South Fort Harrison Avenues in Clearwater, Florida. Built in the same era as the Hotel Belleview (Biltmore), circa 1896, its first occupant was a retail paint and hardware store located on the ground level and apartments on the second floor. In the early 1900’s, when the paint store relocated east on land that was once an orange grove, Ralph and Florence Plumb purchased the building and converted it into a single family home. Removing an upper story porch, they built a wrap-around veranda on the first floor and added a much needed kitchen and dining room for their growing family.
“There was only one bathroom in the house for 11 people” Maurice continued. “Aunt Elsie was the oldest, then Kathleen, nicknamed Tina (rhymes with China), Newland, George (who died when he was 8 months old), Myrtle (born December 25th, 1900), Lester, Jennie, Mary, Robert and Milton. “My father Lester was born in this house.” Lester was locally known as the Tax Assessor and worked for Pinellas County for 34 years.
“In those days, when my father found out that someone was going to lose their home because they didn’t pay their taxes, he’d hunt them up and keep them from losing their property.”
Setting the standard in 1873, in a cold log Baptist church just east of her home, Jennie Reynolds Plumb became Clearwater’s first paid public school teacher, earning a total of $100 for three months work. In 1883, Clearwater built its first schoolhouse on South Fort Harrison, now the present site of closed South Ward School. And today, Plumb Elementary School still stands as a tribute to the Plumb family.
Life was so cozy at the Plumb house that daughters Kathleen and Mary spent the majority of their lives there. Kathleen’s bedroom was the first one at the top of the stairs. Her twin bed was tucked in between two tall sash windows which provided natural ventilation and all three bedrooms had high ceilings. Mary’s bedroom was over the front porch and the third bedroom “became the guest bedroom,” according to Maurice.
Following in her sister Jennie’s footsteps, Kathleen devoted 42 of her 88 years educating the school children of Clearwater and Pinellas County. Her mission in life was that children would receive a good education. Kathleen was a teacher and principal at South Ward School from 1914 thru 1929.
In 1934, tragedy struck the Plumb family when Ralph Reynolds was struck by a car on South Ft. Harrison Avenue. The Clearwater Sun gave the following account: Ralph Reynolds Plumb, 65, a member of Pioneer Central Pinellas family, was fatally injured by a car driven by Mrs. Nancy Corbett Russell, 18, (another report lists Nancy as 16-years-old) of Druid Road, Harbor Oaks. The following day Ralph Reynolds Plumb died at Morton Plant Hospital.
In 1982, after Kathleen and Mary were residing in a nursing home, Dr. Charles Nach purchased the property and agreed to donate the house to the Clearwater Historical Society. Also absorbing moving costs, Dr. Nach moved the Plumb House to its present location at 1380 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, Clearwater, FL. in December of 1983. On January 24th, 1985, the City of Clearwater formally recognized the Plumb House as a permanent museum.
Now open to the public on Saturdays from 10 a.m to 1 p.m. from November to May, and 9 a.m. to Noon the first and third Thursday of each month, the Clearwater Historical Society (CHS) relies on donations from the public to maintain the Plumb House and Plumb House Museum and keep its doors open.
CHS also earns money to support the Plumb House with their spring and Fall Fish Fry, the first Saturday in May and the first Saturday in November respectively. This year CHS purchased 210 lbs. of farm raised cat fish fillets from Louisiana. The fundraiser should feed approximately “420 people,” according to longtime resident Joe Turner Jr. “We may have some left over this year.”
The Plumb House is available to rent for meetings, weddings and receptions. Please call 727-446-4250 or write the Clearwater Historical Society, P.O. Box 175, Clearwater, FL 33757 for further information.
Room with a View. Kathleen Plumb’s bedroom on the second floor was representative of a typical Florida cracker home, designed with high ceilings and plenty of cross ventilation.
May Fish Fry. City of Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard and wife Teresa are flanked by local Attorney Charlie Robinson at Clearwater Historical Society’s annual Spring Fish Fry, held at the Ross Norton Park Recreation Center last Saturday, May 2, 2009.
Return to Current Edition