Historic Civic Center

135 W Church Ave, Longwood, FL 32750

This is likely the oldest building that is original to Longwood–records indicate it was erected at least 1880 and possibly as early as 1875. Through that hisitory, it has been at several locations. The original section of the structure is in the center, behind the two side additions. It was first used as a schoolhouse and a community center for civic events; a traveling teacher named Professor Lynch taught there. At that time it was located about a block west, about where the Christ Church is today. It is likely the building where the first services of the Episcopal Church were held.

This sign hung in front of the building for many years.

After Christ Church was constructed in 1881, this building was moved outside of town to what was known as Stum’s Corner what was then considered the separate community of West Longwood. It was located near the corner of what is now Rangeline Road and the terminus of Church Avenue–back then that section of Church Avenue was known as Markham Road (the road connected with the community of Markham, west of Sanford).

During that phase of its life, it was used as a small church that was first called the Self Union congregation and later West Longwood Chapel. The community group West Longwood Pioneers also used it as their headquarters. The Great Freeze of 1894-1895 wreaked havoc on much of the area and the town of West Longwood was hit hard. Many of its residents left town or moved closer into Longwood proper, and the building sat abandoned for two decades.

The women of the village founded the Longwood Improvement Society on December 28, 1911. Its first officers were Mrs. Hardaway (president), Miss Dunbar (secretary), and Miss Niemeyer (treasurer). It was redubbed the Longwood Civic League on February 10, 1913, before later becoming commonly referred to as the Women’s Club. This group was a vital part of the civic life of early Longwood. Its goal was to improve the quality of life and bring modern conveniences to the pioneer town. They helped raise money for street lights, paving roads (at first with sawdust), hosting events, cleaning up trash, and they operated a library out of this building for many decades.

Sign carved for the Civic League by local artistan William Beebee in 1929. Beebee made several others around town, such as for the Baptist Church.

In 1914 the Civic League purchased the building for $50, and Daniel Clouser (brother of Josiah B. Clouser) helped move it to its present location. The Civic League purchased the lot for another $50, which adjoined one donated by F. Robinson. It served as the Woman’s Club headquarters for over 80 years. Through the club’s efforts, the Historic Civic Center hosted many community gatherings and dances, in many ways just like its current function. Sometime after the relocation in 1914 the two side expansions with the front-facing gabled roofs were added.

Starting in 1914, the eastern half of the building was operated as a library. For decades it was well-attended and operated by full-time librarians. It had an annual budget of $100 for new books, which then could purchase about 30 volumes, in addition to donations. This was the center of life for the young community. Meetings, graduations, and assemblies were held here. The library was where many youngsters went to research for their school assignments with its volumes of encyclopedias, almanacs, and atlases.

During the 1950s the front porch was enclosed and it remained closed-in for over 50 years. Many locals detested the change and celebrated when it was later restored to the earlier design.

During the 1970s, interest began to wane and the local library could not keep up with county libraries. It became known as the Longwood Historic Library, and they focused on Florida and historic books. Attendance was low and the Women’s Club reduced it to hours to only two days a week. In 1986 it was renamed the Maxine McGrath Memorial Library, after a long-time library volunteer who died that year.

In 1998 the Women’s Club disbanded and gave the building to the Longwood Historic Society so that it could be maintained and protected for generations to come. For several decades of its lifetime, the building was painted a pale yellow but has since been restored to its original white. The front porch was again opened up in 2007 to restore it to how it would have appeared in 1914!

In 2019 the Longwood Historic Society gave the building a major restoration by replaced the sagging floor, which had been damaged by terminates decades ago. It the subfloor was redone all the way to the dirt below and the support beams reinforced. Although not strictly authentic, the wood tile was put in for longevity and durability needed for its use hosting community events. The stage was removed during this renovation.

Today the building serves as the headquarters for the Longwood Historic Society, and it is regularly rented out for community events.

Rent this Building

The Historic Civic Center is available to rent for your small to medium sized gathering.