SARASOTA, Fla — This Friday, the historic Leonard Reid House, home to one of Sarasota's early black pioneers will be moving to a new location to become a museum.
Reid helped set up Sarasota's first African American community in Overtown.
The City of Sarasota community has anticipated the move for a few years. The historic house will be moved from its current location on 7th Street in the Rosemary District to a city-owned lot at the corner of North Orange Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Way in Newtown.
Crews have been preparing and laying the groundwork ahead of moving day.
"We had to cut holes in the chimney," Kyle Johnson of Johnson House Moving said. "At the bottom of the chimney, if you can see those holes, that's where will have steel beams going across our main beams to support the chimney."
Johnson is tasked with the responsibility of moving the house in one piece and it is one he said he doesn't take lightly.
He and his team have been digging out dirt from under the house so they can lift it, load it unto a truck, and drive it up a few streets to the new location. It's a trip that should take a regular person in a car around 6 to 8 minutes or around 20 minutes on foot.
The single-story frame vernacular style 1926 house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
More than two decades ago when it was to be initially restored and relocated to its original location, it was Johnson's dad doing the moving.
"Last time, I believe the house was in pretty rough shape and they did quite a bit of other work to the house after my father moved it the first time so it's actually in a lot better shape than it was when he moved it in 99," Johnson said.
"It's kind of scary, it's exciting, it's a mixed bag of feelings and I am nervous about this house moving out of its original location to a new neighborhood, but I have come to realize this is how historic structures will be saved particularly in gentrifying neighborhoods," Vicki Oldham, President of Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition, said. "In this case, this neighborhood is nearly totally gentrified and so if we want to save this structure we have to find another use for it and it's got to be moved and I am happy with it."
Oldham has played a significant role in the process of repurposing the structure after the current owner initiated a dialogue in 2020 to donate the historic structure to the City.
Once moved and set up, the house will become the first home for the Sarasota African American Art Center and History Museum.
"We're going to take really, really good care of it because the family that owned it took such good care of the African American community way back in the early 1900s," Oldham said.
Several city departments, including traffic management, worked to evaluate what could be impacted during the actual moving process.
"We had to physically plan out the route of which Roads we would we be able to use to make this move happen," Camden Mills, Capital Projects Engineer for the city, said.
The city is spending around $400,000 to move the house which holds a high sentimental value to the community
"It's going to take all of us sharing and preserving and teaching history," Oldham said.
"You have got to preserve it when you can because there's not going to be much left of it," Johnson said.
This Thursday at 5:30 pm, the public is invited to a send-off celebration for the Leonard Reid House.
The event will feature traditional African music and performances, community speakers and a symbolic ritual for prosperity and protection as the house heads on its journey to its new location.