BROOKSVILLE — It was sad news to many when it was announced that the Friends of Chinsegut Hill, a tax-exempt nonprofit organization formed to oversee, manage and protect the history of the grounds and two-story manor house dating to the 1840s, had dissolved.
That was the bad news, and while there is no news yet of any organization stepping up to take its place, the prospects for one — or more — doing just that is looking pretty good.
Hernando County Administrator Jeff Rogers said he’s been surprised by the interest groups are showing in taking over day-to-day operations at the county-owned 115-acre retreat, which sits 269 feet above sea level just a bit north of downtown.
Formerly operated by the University of South Florida, the house and grounds came under the control of the Friends of Chinsegut Hill in 2008. The Friends offered tours, corporate retreats, hosting of events and weddings, as well as simple getaways where people could rent cabins on the site. The money raised was used to support the group and help sustain the property, an effort run in tandem with Hernando County, which handles the heavy maintenance on the property.
Hernando is upgrading air conditioning systems in the cabins now, as well as doing maintenance on the water tank that supplies all the water on the grounds, said Rogers. The retreat will be closed this summer for that work.
The exception will be for any events or gatherings already booked prior to the dissolution of the Friends of Chinsegut, said Rogers.
“The county will oversee and support special events booked previously to ensure they are successful,” he said.
Rogers added that he expects he’ll make a presentation to the Hernando County Commission in July or August with proposals from groups interested in picking up where the Friends of Chinsegut left off.
“There are several potential partnerships with organizations for the future,” said Rogers, who added he’s been surprised by the number of groups willing to partner with Hernando to run Chinsegut Hill.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the interest to maintain Chinsegut Hill,” said Rogers. “That’s one of the best things to come out of this is the (potential for) sustainable partnerships so we can move forward.”
Chinsegut is an Inuit Indian word meaning “the spirit of things lost and regained.”
The name was given by Raymond Robins and his sister, Elizabeth Robins, who together bought the property in 1904. The estate was started as a plantation in the 1850s by Col. Bird Pearson, an attorney and ardent secessionist from South Carolina who served on the Florida Supreme Court from 1856 until 1859, the year of his death.
It is believed the manor house was built in the 1840s. Much of Hernando County can be seen from the top of the hill, which one of the highest points in Florida.