Reasoner House: 118-year-old home likely to be demolished

BRADENTON, Fla. -- A grand old lady in Manatee County is about to face the wrecking ball. She survived world wars, recessions, depressions and glory days. But soon she'll be torn down to make way for a gas station.

For 118 years, the 3-story Reasoner House has stood on a spot along 53rd Avenue East near where Sam’s Club and Walmart now stand. "The Reasoner House is one of the oldest buildings in Manatee County. It’s in our Top 10 of oldest buildings," says Manatee County historian Cathy Slusser.

Built in 1896, it has always belonged to the Reasoner family, being passed down through four generations.

Pliny Reasoner was the first to arrive there. "Pliney left the family farm in Illinois when he was 16 years old, traveled here, decided to stop in this area," says Ward Reasoner, president of Ward Reasoner & Sons Landscaping.

He was looking for a place to grow and sell tropical plants. His younger brother Egbert soon joined him, and the Reasoner Brothers Royal Palms Nursery became a great success.

But Pliney died of yellow fever when he was only 25. When Egbert married, his brides parents gave them the house. "It was Sears catalog house that was built in the northeast, shipped piece by piece down the river, and reassembled here."

Even today in its state of disarray, its beauty shines through. "It's got hardwood floors; all the ornate wood you see has actually been painted over. A lot is mahogany."

It was the first house in Manatee County to have an indoor bathroom.

The nursery was thriving, but the depression hit them hard. "During the depression, we lost the majority the property. It was 300 acres we lost. We kept the house, but the rest of the nursery property was lost because people just weren't purchasing plants," says Reasoner.

They still lived in the house and moved their nursery business elsewhere.

Today, much of the interior of the house is still intact. As in 1896, over the fireplace is written “Beth Salem; May peace be within these walls.”

But very soon now those walls will come down. "The last 15 years it has been an extreme financial burden on the family. We dumped a lot of money in it trying to keep it up."

It’s on the market for $95,000. That doesn't include the land. "The problem is, the person has to have the means to move the house. The house has to be cut in half to go under utilities, and someone needs a piece of property where it goes to.”

But Slusser hates to see the historical landmark fall. "It is very important for us to value our history and preserve it to make us an unique community people want to come and live and play in."

But after standing on that spot for 118 years, unless somebody comes forward to buy and move the beautiful old home in the next 30-40 days it will be torn down and a gas station will be built on the spot.