July 25, 2021
Brooksville, Florida is 50 miles north of Tampa and just a few miles east of Weeki Wachee Springs on State Road 50. Its population is 8,191.
Like many Florida cities, Brooksville has been dwarfed by a huge next door development that created many thousands of new homes.
Its neighbor to the west, Spring Hill, now has a population of 111,076. Brooksville is more than 100 years older than Spring Hill and less than 1/10th the size.
Chocochattee Town, near Brooksville, was the de facto seat of government for the Seminole nation for almost 70 years going back to 1767.
Fort DeSoto was built on the north side of what is now Brooksville during the Seminole Wars in the 1840s.
There was no well water available because of the underlying limestone formation, so the fort moved to an area with freshwater springs that were on the site of the future Brooksville.
The fort became a regular stop on the stage coach line that ran from Palatka to Tampa.
Settlers began arriving in the late 1840s and created two new communities, Pierceville and Melendez. Many of these early settlers were from southern states and some owned black slaves.
These two communities merged in 1856 and became known as Brooksville, named for Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina.
History is sometimes ugly, but should never be forgotten. Good or bad, it teaches us valuable lessons.
Charles Sumner was a United States Senator from Massachusetts in the years before the American Civil War.
He was an outspoken opponent of slavery, and known for his fiery speeches on the subject.
Preston Brooks was a congressman from South Carolina, and an equally outspoken advocate of slavery.
One day in 1856, Sumner gave a speech in the Senate that was especially insulting to the South. Brooks savagely attacked Sumner on the Senate floor and nearly beat him to death with a cane.
Sumner missed the next 3 years of service in the Senate, and needed extensive therapy to survive his injuries.
His attack on the hated Yankee senator made him a hero in the South, and Brooksville was very much a southern city in the years during and after the civil war.
After the civil war ended in 1865, many Confederate sympathizers moved into the area. Brooksville had a far more southern heritage than most other places in central west Florida.
The City of Brooksville was incorporated in 1880. The early economy of Brooksville was based on agriculture - including cotton - and several large plantations were in the area.
The area was the scene of many violent racial incidents in the years after the Civil War and on into the 1930s.
Read an excellent article on the history of Hernando County.
The violent act that inspired the town's name does not fit with its peaceful demeanor of today.
Lovely ancient oaks line the brick streets. Grand old well maintained southern mansions stand proudly in quiet neighborhoods.
It is within a long commuter's drive of Tampa and an ever increasing number of Tampa workers are making the trip, especially since the completion of the Suncoast Parkway, a toll road.
Although a medium sized town, it is easy to get lost in Brooksville because of the many state and federal highways that meander through town in a most unusual way.
For example, US-41 comes into town from the southwest, then turns east through town before going north again.
US-98 comes in from the southeast, then turns west before going north again.
State Road 50 bypasses the town on its south side, but State Road 50A goes directly through town.
All of these highway confluences result in a series of one way streets that locals have no problems with but that confuse tourists.
The weather worn statue of a confederate soldier still stands guard in front of the Hernando County courthouse in downtown Brooksville.
The downtown area has not been gentrified like in so many Florida towns.
It is a collection of interesting old buildings and quite a few that have seen better days.
It's a real town where people live, work, play and enjoy the many good restaurants in the area.
Unlike most of table-flat Florida, Brooksville and Hernando County have many rolling hills. Some of them are among the highest elevations in Florida.
One of the most interesting attractions in Brooksville is Chinsegut Hill Manor House, known locally also as Mount Airy, Snow Hill or just The Hill.
This is a historic site that was originally the plantation of Colonel Byrd Pearson from South Carolina who named his sprawling estate "Mount Airy".
The house was partially completed before Florida became a state. The property has had other uses and names over the years.
Another place that's fun to visit in Brooksville is the Hernando Heritage Museum at 601 Museum Court. It is located within the historic May-Stringer House.
The house is on the National Register of Historic Places, and features many artifacts and Victorian era rooms.
MAIN STREET EATERY
101 North Main Street
The Main Street Eatery has been serving homemade lunch, and only lunch, since it was opened in 1989 by Mr. and Mrs. Bill Bell.
It is very popular with the locals who work in the nearby shops and government buildings, but it has also been discovered by tourists.
The paper table mats have ads for many of the downtown Brooksville businesses, so it is a good place to get oriented.
The Eatery has a delicious selection of sandwiches, salads, soups and desserts. Their offerings range from healthy to decadent.
For example, you can have their house salad with garden fresh veggies, celery and carrots and a healthy dressing.
Or you can also have their Buzzard Breath Chili, a spicy concoction topped with Cheddar Cheese and crispy tortilla chips.
If you can eat one bowl of this hot chili, the second bowl is free.
They serve spicy chicken wings, cheese nachos, pasta salad, Greek salad, and even have a diet platter made with Jell-O and cottage cheese.
All of their sandwiches are made using 97% fat free meats.
They proclaim that their Cuban sandwich is the finest north of Havana. That would include those in Miami, of course, so that is quite a claim!
My favorite soup at this cozy small restaurant is their "Bill's Famous Cajun Bean with Hamburger Soup".
This delicious meal is not as spicy as the chili, and is sometimes made with three or four different kinds of beans.
I once asked Mrs. Bell for the recipe and was politely refused, so I just have to keep going up there to have it when the craving hits me.
The interior of Main Street Eatery is "retro art deco", with a small counter and maybe two or three booths and ten tables.
It's smack dab in the middle of historic downtown Brooksville.
They even have free WiFi if you get lonely for your e-mail.