DADE CITY, capital of Pasco County, is named for Major Francis Dade, who with 110 other soldiers was slain December 28, 1835, in a Seminole ambush. The founding of Fort Dade at Lachoochee protected homesteaders in the region but it wasn't until the arrival of the railroad in 1884 that the present-day Dade City boomed. Judge Samuel Pasco was U.S. Senator when the county was established in 1887.

SAN ANTONIO, five miles to the west, was started in 1881 by Edmund Dunne, former Chief Justice of Arizona Territory and lawyer for land baron Hamilton Disston who gave Dunne 50,000 acres for his legal services. Dunne set up a refuge for Irish and German Catholics.

WHERE TO START: EXIT I-75 ON FL 52 and travel east toward Dade City. Five miles east, TURN LEFT (north) ON CURLEY STREET (FL 577), then RIGHT ON PENNSLYVANIA AVENUE.  Just north of this intersection is the 1913 ST. CHARLES INN, a double-balconied two story built by Charles Barthle to serve the Orange Belt Railroad. It is a bed and breakfast now and it is a beautiful building.

On the left is the SAN ANTONIO CITY HALL (1933),32819 Pennslyvania Avenue, a stone W.P.A. building which originally contained the city council, police, and fire departments. On your right is BICENTENNIAL PLAZA, a European style park with a Memorial to Dunne, a nifty bandstand, and recreation facilities. The town's RATTLESNAKE FESTIVAL is held here. It was the center of the Catholic community when Dunne developed the colony.

TURN RIGHT ON MAIN STREET, lined with old Victorian frame houses.  My biased favorite is the JUDGE JOHN FLANNAGAN HOUSE (1896), 219 Main St., residence for years of Dr Charles Arnade, editor of Latin American Review and my Latin American history professor..  Flannagan was the area's biggest real estate promoter and author of many travel booklets on the town.   His house later held the Knights of Columbus.

At 437 Main Street is the DR. W. BRADSHAW HOUSE (1896). AT 218 South Curley is the 1912 CHARLES GAILMARD HOUSE, a pioneer house with a three-sided wraparound porch.

Up at 417 Main Street is the THOMAS J. QUIGLEY HOUSE (1881), the oldest residence in the area. Quigley was a pioneer in the Catholic colony and sold the hme to the brother of town developer Judge Dunne, John Dunne, Vice President for Hamilton Disston's Florida Land and Development Company. In this capacity, John Dunne probably got the Judge the 100,000 acres he purchased in Pasco County.

Turn around and GO EAST ON MASSACHUSETTS AVENUE. You may wish to park to see the stone grotto and statue to St. Anthony next to the ST. ANTONIO CHURCH (1911), a twin-towered stone church replacing the 1883 original. Next door is the SAINT ANTONY SCHOOL (1922), begun in 1883 when Mrs Cecilia Morse invited the Benedictine Sisters to the village. The grotto and wall by the school was built in 1935.

EXIT THE SQUARE AT COLLEGE ROAD and travel  east on FL52. TURN LEFT ONTO THE CAMPUS OF ST. LEO COLLEGE, started in 1890 as a monastery by the Benedictine monks. While St. Leo has a small school campus, the institution offers classes online and in person all over the USA and on military bases.
PARK BY ST. LEO ABBEY CHURCH (1948), a Lombardic-Romanesque structure with Indiana limestone trim noted for its fine interior and marble Christ crucifix. You'll recognize the image as a replica of a certain controversial cloth in Europe.

Stroll over to ST. LEO HALL (1915), a four-story concrete building designed by Brother Anthony Poiger. Next door is SAINT EDWARD  (1926). The new boys dorm was named for actor Lee Marvin, despite throwing a youth out a second-story window while a student in 1941. Ask where the rough trail across the highway which contains the Garden of Gethsemane (1935) leading to the OUR LADY OF LOURDES GROTTO.

CONTINUE EAST ON FL52 along Meridian Avenue into DADE CITY. The area west of downtown has many streets with Victoria masterpieces so a little block by block driving is in order for people who love well-preserved residences.

TURN RIGHT (south) ON 15TH STREET and TURN LEFT onto Church Avenue's Historic District. At 37412 Church is the FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (1894), a wooden Gothic, the site of Central Florida Normal College.  As you travel east along Church, you can’t help to notice the fine Victorian houses and large yards.  The RAYMOND-WARD HOUSE at 37335 has a huge wrap-around porch.    The BAPTIST CHURCH was moved here from across town in 1910.


Church Avenue is filled with notable houses: JAMES KNOX WARD HOUSE (1892), at 37805 Church, on the southside. is a classic Victorian house, home of a blacksmith who became Mayor from 1903-1904. His wife took in boarders at the house..  The ROBERT ROSS-LARKIN HOUSE (1882), 37603 Church, was once a three room cottage. Cattleman William Larkin, who introduced the Santa Gertrudis strain to Florida once  at 37604 is the JOHN W. PLATT HOUSE, used as the district Methodist parsonage from 1894 to 1905.lived here.  The Dutch Colonial style of the KNIGHT HOUSE (1900),  at 37508 Church, is unusual for the area.

CROSS 13TH STREET. The entire block has older homes but on your right at the end of the block is the 1888 JASPER CARTER HOUSE..


    600 Church Street                                                         Presbyterian Church


CROSS 12TH STREET. The last house on the left, opposite the Gothic FIRST METHODIST CHURCH (1889), built of heart pone and cypress by James E. Lee, is the GRAY MOSS INN (1910), 37641 Church, a Mediterranean Revival Brummer House when President Calvin Coolidge lunched here in 1923..

TURN LEFT ON 11TH STREET. The last house on the left is the PINHOLSTER HOUSE (1896), 37838 West Meridian. CROSS MERIDIAN AVENUE  past Frank Price Park. CROSS MAGNOLIA where on the left is the transplanted ST. MARY'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH (1892), a tropical Gothic once located in Pasadena.

TURN RIGHT ON ROBINSON where on the left at the end of the block is the unique OLD BRICK JAIL (1892), the oldest brick building in town. TURN RIGHT ON 10TH STREET and travel two blocks where on your right at 103 Meridian Avenue is the ALALEA B&B/CHRISTOPHER LOCK HOUSE (1906), a two-story Dutch Colonial with a gambrel roof.

Several other north-side sites to locate are: the MOUNT ZION AME CHURCH (1918). 434 N. 7th Street, the oldest masonry church in Pasco County and a congregation started by freedmen in the 1870's on Lake Pasadena; and the OLD STATE FARMERS MARKET (1935), 601 N. 10th Street, a WPA Project built of native rock. Downtown Dade City is compact enough to park the car and visit the antique shops and restaurants - a popular trip for people in Tampa and Saint Petersburg.

TURN RIGHT ON MERIDIAN AND LEFT ON 9TH STREET to see the EDWINOLA INN (1912), once a two-story concrete inn, now a large retirement center. RETURN TO MERIDIAN and TURN LEFT. As you CROSS 8TH STREET, on the left is the 1924 COLEMAN-FERGUSON DEPARTMENT STORE, Meridian Street. In 1884 Henry Coleman and William Ferguson started a store which promoted the tiny town. Next door is the BANK OF DADE CITY (1917), a financial institution that did not survive the Florida Land Bust and became a store.

The stores on Meridian downtown are the oldest in town; the TREIBER BUILDING at 37846 was built in 1900 as a hardware shop.   More interesting is the OLD CITY HALL, now a store, past the courthouse toward the OLD RAILROAD DEPOT. It is a classic structure.

You have reached 7th Avenue (US301) and should park to tour the downtown antique shops and visit the ) PASCO COUNTY COURTHOUSE (1909), a two-story brick Beaux-Arts classic by Artemus Roberts. The 1921 bandshell is a landmark.


WHERE TO HAVE LUNCH: After a visit around Historic Downtown Dade City, you will hopefully have reserved a spot at (20) LUNCH ON LIMOGES , 14139 South Seventh Street, a wonderful bistro located in the middle of the 1908 O. N. WILLIAMS DEPARTMENT STORE. People travel for miles to eat here. In your downtown travels you will find other restaurants and even a tea house.

Other sites to locate on the southside of Dade City include: ST. RITA CATHOLIC CHURCH BUILDING (1913), 1000 South 5th Street, now the Dade City Garden Club; the GEORGE MASSEY HOUSE (1894), S. 5th Street, an old clapboard with a bunch of added sleeping porches; and the CRESCENT TEATRE BUILDING (1926), on Florida Avenue and South 5th Street, a Boom Time Mediterranean being restored.

After downtown VISIT THE PIONEER FLORIDA MUSEUM (567-0262), four miles north on US301. You'll love the 1864 Trilby Depot, the 1864 Overstreet House, the Lacoochee School, and the Enterprise Methodist Church. There is a complete packing plant and a collection of some of the finest Victorian carriages and a unique oil carriage which supplied area farmers. ADMISSION is charged.


Seminole War buffs may want to see the location of the SECOND FORT DADE (1856), located in the woods at the end of South 14th Street. Nothing remains of the fortress.