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If you’ve ever visited the Polk County History Center & Genealogical Library in Bartow or the Kathleen Area Historical Society Heritage Park in North Lakeland, you might have encountered a friendly woman with short dark hair, an eager smile and a brimming knowledge of the area.
On Monday evening at the 2023 Historic Preservation Awards, Lois Sherrouse-Murphy, a fifth generation Lakelander, received the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award from Historic Lakeland, Inc. and the City of Lakeland’s Historic Preservation Board for her work in maintaining and sharing the history of Polk County.
Lifetime Achievement Award
“First off, I don’t think I’m old enough to be eligible for a lifetime achievement award, but I’ll take it – thank you so much,” joked Sherrouse-Murphy, who is 68. “And thank you also for not including before and after photos (of me).”
She said she was “stunned and thrilled” when she first heard of her nomination for what she first thought was a simple historic preservation award. But then, she said, as the day grew closer she wondered if this was like the Academy Awards.
“Maybe I was just nominated and likely up against folks who were far more deserving than me,” she said, holding the round crystal plaque of the winner. “So tonight I’m still stunned and thrilled but also relieved and very very appreciative.”
It was only the fifth time in 38 years that the Board presented a lifetime achievement award. The evening’s master of ceremonies, John White said it “is only presented to individuals who have profoundly impacted the Lakeland community through their preservation efforts … Recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award in Historic Preservation have dedicated many years of their life promoting and protecting our local history and historic resources, and thanks to them, Lakeland’s architectural and cultural heritage can be shared with future generations.”
White noted that the Kathleen area – which is comprised of the Galloway and Gibsonia, Green Pond, Griffin, Providence, Socrum and Winston communities – is an area “rich with pioneer history, architecture, and tradition, whose story has been kept alive by Lois Sherrouse-Murphy. As a descendent of the Kathleen-area pioneer families, as well as a local and family historian, Lois has single-handedly led the charge to preserve Kathleen’s history.”
Sherrouse-Murphy said her great-great-grandparents, the Costines, arrived in 1859 in the Green Pond area, before Polk County was even formed. Her Sherrouse great-great-grandparents arrived in the area between 1865-1870.
White cited Sherrouse-Murphy’s 2015 book, “Communities of the Kathleen Area,” which remains the only mass-published history of Kathleen and its surrounding communities and “serves a placeholder for her passion and diligence in sharing local history.”
Sherrouse-Murphy is the current president and a long-time member of the Kathleen Area Historical Society, a long-time member of the board of directors and current Secretary for the Polk County Historical Association, has worked as museum assistant at the Polk County History Center for more than eight years and contributes directly to the conservation and preservation of historic materials in Polk County, and is also directly involved in the Polk County Historical Commission.
“There are many, many wonderful people in the Kathleen area – past and present – who share in this award,” she said. “People just like you, who understand that history connects us and also that preservation of local history.”
Sherrouse-Murphy’s award capped off an evening of recognition as a who’s who of Lakeland historic preservationists gathered at the Polk Theatre on Monday evening.
Institutional Preservation Award
Another award not given out every year is the Institutional Preservation Award, which was presented to the founders and developers of Bonnet Springs Park – Barney Barnett, David Bunch and Bill Tinsley. The former rail yard was abandoned and sat overlooked for decades along the eastern shore of Lake Bonnet. Its soil was contaminated and its wooded area had become a permanent settlement for a homeless camp.
White noted that Tinsley and realtor David Bunch, who is also known for his historic preservation work, approached Barney Barnett about “a monumental renaissance of the 168-acre site. They would transform the brownfield land and lake into Bonnet Springs Park, an interactive private park and event venue, filled with amenities and remediated landscapes, as well as a permanent historical exhibit retelling the story of the park’s railroad heritage and industries that built Lakeland.”
Other recipients are:
Stephen and Stephanie Madden and Greg and Lory Madden for rehabilitation of the Eli Witt Cigar Co. building at 238 N. Massachusetts Avenue, previously called the Gore Building and once home to the Monarch Market, it was built circa 1926.
Elizabeth Willers for the rehabilitation of the Ulysses and Susie Iverson House at 815 South Missouri Avenue, built circa 1920. It is now home to Willers Homes Team with EXP Realty.
Chris and Lauren Morata for rehabilitation of the William and Anna Hamlin House, located at 817 Orange Park Avenue in the South Lake Morton Historic District. The two-story frame vernacular style house was built circa 1926.
Ian Jones with Turning Leaf Renovations for rehabilitation of the Matthew Smith House, at 506 W. Hancock Street in the Dixieland Historic District. This one-story Craftsman Bungalow house was built circa 1926.
Christopher Satterfield for rehabilitation of the Robert and Sophie George house at 822 W. Patterson Street in the Dixieland Historic District. The two-story Queen Anne house was built circa 1908, and remains one of the oldest houses in Dixieland. Satterfield said he traced the home to Henry B. Plant, noting it has duplicate materials found in the Plant Museum in Tampa.
Michael Schwam and Gary Hoover for the 15-year rehabilitation of the Orline and Marie Springett house at 50 Lake Hunter Drive in the Dixieland Historic District. The one-story Craftsman Bungalow house was built circa 1925.
Jennifer Spence and Carolina Goicoechea Spence received an honorable mention for rehabilitation of the Clarence and Laura McIntyre House at 813 Pennsylvania Avenue in the South Lake Morton Historic District. The one-story Craftsman Bungalow home was built circa 1926.
Jason and Hope Hagerman received an honorable mention for rehabilitation of the Jonas and Geneva Button House at 630 W. Patterson Street in the Dixieland Historic District. The one-story, frame vernacular was built circa 1922 and is one of the earlier homes built in Dixieland.
This award is for new buildings designed to compliment surrounding properties.
The Well at 114 East Parker Street in the North Downtown neighborhood. Previously the site of a thrift shop, the Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency took ownership and in 2021, a two-story masonry building was constructed. Created by co-founders Sallie Stone and Mario Stone, The Well is a flexible workspace used by a diverse community of independent professionals, startups, and teams from large and small businesses.
The Well has also been used as a space for community meetings and gatherings.
Brian Holbrook and contractor Jordan Napoles of Mark Brown Construction worked together to ensure that an original Craftsman Bungalow at 203 W. Patterson Street in the Dixieland Historic District would be rebuilt with a nod to the same architectural vernacular. The original was simply too deteriorated to repair and its demolition was granted by the Historic Preservation Board in 2020.
Juan Hernandez with Merlin Properties of Central Florida and Diego and Yelithza Paramo with Paramount Building Services of Florida constructed a new residence on a vacant lot in the Dixieland Historic District at 613 Ariana Street. The new house was completed in 2022 and its design features a Bungalow aesthetic
Contractor of the Year
Daniel Sharrett of Sharrett Construction was recognized for his “excellent work in preserving Lakeland’s built heritage, (including) projects large and small to restore and improve historic properties, many of which are located in Lakeland’s historic districts. In just the past decade, Mr. Sharrett has completed restoration or repair work on at least 18 historic homes,” including some recognized Monday night. White called Sharrett a trusted general contractor for his work on historic properties and for his knowledge and expertise respecting historical building tradition. His new properties “compatibly blend the new with historic fabric.”
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